While public and political pressure for the United States to withdraw from the Olympic Games in Moscow this summer intensifies, American wrestling and boxing teams are preparing to depart for the Soviet Union in the next few days despite a request from the State Department to cancel their trips.
A spokesman for the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) said yesterday that a U.S. wrestling team will leave for Moscow today, and that a squad of U.S. boxers will depart for the Soviet Union on Tuesday unless barred by the State Department.
The teams are not sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee, which is resisting calls by officials of the Carter Administration for a boycott of the Moscow Games in reprisal for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Spokesman Pete Cava told the Associated Press that the AAU would go ahead with its plans to send the two teams to the Soviet Union "as long as it goes no farther than a request (by the State Department) not to go." Such a request was tendered earlier in the week, but so far the State Department has stopped short of ordering the teams not to go.
Don Hull, executive director of boxing for the AAU, said the State Department had raised the possibility that visas for a team of Soviet track athletes due in the United States on Tuesday would not be granted.
"That's the same day our boxers will go to Russia," Hull said. "The Soviets already have issued visas to our men, so there is no problem from our end."
The State Department will make further attempts to get the AAU to cancel the trips, but probably would not go as far as limiting the passports of the American athletes, a department spokesman said last night.
Newt Copple, head of the AAU's wrestling division, said a 15-man team will leave as scheduled for a two-week tour of the Soviet Union. There the wrestlers have scheduled two dual meets with the Soviet national team and a tournament in Tbilisi.
"There are several factors for this team to go to Russia now," Copple said. "The Russians may pull out of Afghanistan, and we might not boycott the Olympics . . . Nobody knows anything for sure.
"None of us likes the idea of wrestling in the Soviet Union, or having the Olympics behind the Iron Curtain, but if we are going to compete and win, we're going to have to have the experience of wrestling there before the Olympics."
Harold Smith -- founder and executive director of the Muhammad Ali Amateur Sports Club, which consists of 15 boxers and 17 track and field athletes -- told the Associated Press that the team voted unanimously not to compete in Moscow.
The club includes such potential Olympic medalists as sprinter Houston McTear, hurdler Greg Foster and boxer Davey Armstrong and Tony Tubbs.
Ali, the former world heavyweight boxing champion and 1960 Olympic gold medalist as a light heavyweight, said: "I feel that the American people should do everything they can to show dislike for what they (the Soviets) are doing, and to let them know that we are ready to go to war if we have to.
"Sports don't mean nothing. This is life or death. When war breaks out, we can forget everything. If it means sacrificing the Olympics to wake these people up and make them think, then it's all worthwhile."
The American cable television industry held a press conference to announce that it will be ready, willing and able to provide coverage of an "alternate Olympics" if one is organized in the wake of an Olympic boycott.
But Alan Baker, vice president of NBC-TV, which paid $87 million in rights and facilities fees for the Moscow Games and plans 150 hours of coverage if they take place, said of the National Cable Television Association's announcement: "The plan is so far out of the realm of possibility that it is beneath comment."