What Olga Connolly has been waiting for, without satisfaction, is to hear an American athlete tell Moscow it can go to hell. She wants Americans to stay home from the Olympics. She wants Moscow to know the pain of international humiliation. She wants that. But she wants the athletes to do it on their own, not on the president's orders. She is waiting to hear a strong voice from an athlete who, as she does, loves the idea of the Olympic Games.
Five times she competed in the Olympics, throwing the discus in every Games from 1956 to 1972. She fell in love at her first Olympics. She carried the American flag on opening day of her last Olympics. Her olympic career is the stuff of dreams for here is a Czech who leaped the Iron Curtain into the arms of her American lover, all the while winning medals from Melbourne to Tokyo to Rome to Mexico City to Munich.
"If I were competing today, I would not go to Moscow," she said yesterday. "I would not go in order to condemn not only the Russian invasion of Afghanistan but what they are doing to the dissidents, such as Sakharov. I just would not go.
"I just wish it would be entrusted to me, the athlete, to make such a decision. To me, the true American, idealistic, Jeffersonian thing to do is to let people, the athletes in this case, make their own choice.
"It would be so much more effective if Al Oerter would say, 'I have to take a stand as a human being.' That would be so much better than having the president order it. To have the president order it, that puts us at the level of the Soviets. We have reduced ourselves.
"We would be just like them. They could say, 'The American athletes wanted to come, but their crazy president wouldn't let them.'
"That freedom to do as you choose is the reason the United States is so worshipped in Communist countries. The United States is different. If offers what police countries do not."
As troubling as it is to see the Olympics now used by the United States as a bargaining chip in a political war, such perversion is preferred to the ante-ing up of, say, nuclear warheads. Don't put the B-1 bomber in the sky. Don't clip the ayatollah's beard with a cruise missle. However wonderful and entertaining the Olympic Games are, it is better by far to pull out of the Moscow Games than to go on with the hypocrisy of them when cruel events make such hypocrisy unbearable.
We can live with hypocrisy. We lived with a black boycott of the '68 Olympics, boycott born of politics, not sport. The Games went on. In '72, 11 Israelis were killed by terrorists at the Games. The Games went on. In '68, at Mexico City, more than 300 students were killed in pre-Olympic rioting. It was politics, not sport. The Games were the flame that lit the fuse. The Games went on.
Somewhere there must be a limit. If the International Olympic Committee looked only at the Soviet Union's astonishing record of athleticism, it was no mistake to award Moscow the 1980 Games. No country cares more about doing well in the Olympics. But the IOC, as a realist, should have looked at the Hungary of 1956 and Olga Connolly's Czechoslovakia of '68. The IOC said Russian soldiers subjugating a country was politics, not sport.
Olga Connolly has reached her limit. She can abide no more hypocrisy. The Olympics she loved are dead. Saddest of all, they may never have lived. But it took her four Olympics to find that out, and now, eight years in her retirement, she is very sad that what she wanted so dearly is so far from reach.
"The Olympics have been dying for a long time," she said. "They have become something very big and very glorious with no substance. They have lost their center idea. The Olympics are to be about the brotherhood of mankind. They are to be about a world without borders. What they are, and what the International Olympic Committee has allowed them to be, are tools of political and commercial pressure."
The Olympics, Connolly said, have failed and nowhere is that failure more evident than in the selection of Moscow as a host.
"There seems no better place to have and Olympics, as far as the relationship of sports to a country's people goes. Athletes are heroes in the Soviet Union.
"But the government is contrary to any human ideal. They invaded, in 1956, Hungary. In 1968 they invaded Czechoslovakia. They do not hestitate to attack the buffer states when they are scared. They will use any act of brutal human suppression for their own security. They will not allow people in the Soviet Union to breathe -- and yet that is the very Olympic idea, freedom and brotherhood.
"So the Olympics is a two-way failure. It's a failure by the Soviet Union to give a practical demonstration that it is an Olympic spirited-imbued government. And the Soviets' behavior shows that the Olympic movement has failed to affect even those governments supportive of the movement.
"It is only a surface thing, the Olympics in Russia. It is a shallow gesture that doesn't penetrate their thinking."
In 1956, the year Russia subjugated her home country, the discus thrower Olga Fikotova met Harold Connolly, an American hammer thrower. So bright was the international spotlight on their romance the Russians were forced by public opinion to let the American into Prague, where in 1957 he married the Czech.
In the last of her four Olympics, as an American, Olga Connolly learned that murder lived in her Olympic dream. It was 1972 in Munich. The Israelis were dead. She had composed a letter to the United Nations secretary-general, Kurt Waldheim. A simple letter, it asked that men, instead of killing each other, work together against disease and hunger. It was her response to obscenity. She posted it on the athletes' bulletin board so others could sign it before it was mailed.
The German Olympic Committee confiscated it. It could not be mailed, they said. It was too political.
"I'll never forget 1972," Connolly said. "It was the first time I seriously thought about what the Olympics were. Israelis had been killed and some countries put their flags at half-staff, some wouldn't.
"The Soviets were locked into their quarters, waiting for word from Moscow on whether to be happy or to be sad about the killings. Avery Brundage was speaking about Rhodesia. The networks were fighting over the rights; CBS and NBC said it was news, but ABC said they had it exclusively.
"I was walking through that.
"I was made sad by that.So I wrote my letter. And it was never mailed because it was, they said, too political."
If Olga Connolly wants to hear American athletes say they are not going to Moscow by their own decision as a matter of personal courage, she will have to listen a while longer.
Nearly 50 athletes held a press conference at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs yesterday to criticize any effort to boycott the Moscow Olympics.
"Use of an Olympic boycott is not in the interest of world peace," said a statement read by weight lifter Bob Giordano of Bellville, N.J. "The very foundation of the Olympic Games began as an instrument of fostering peace."
The most effective sanction, the athletes said, "would be a total economic boycott of the Soviet Union . . . We must use sanctions that achieve results, not symbolic gestures which only vent emotions."
The 50 athletes represented weight lifting, cycling, shooting sports, water polo, volleyball and team handball.