At the U.S. Olympic Committee's Olympic Training Center, it was a gloomy, bitter Sunday morning, a day for Rocky Mountain lows.
The sky was gray and clouds obscured Pike's Peak, which often glistens against a cool blue sky at this time of year. Not today. The temperature hovered around zero degrees Fahrenheit, and a gusty breeze scattered new fallen snow and chilled the boundled-up figures who walked fast and low against the winter.
"A day that fit the feeling around here," said USOC publicist Mike Moran. Indeed, dreary, gray and cold is the mood of many of the approximately 100 athletes training here as they see the prospects for American particiapation in this summer's Moscow Olympics dwindling.
The sense of drive, dedication and discipline that usually throbs like a palpable pulse through this former Air Force base turned spawning ground of athletic dreams is missing these days. The athletes in residence are subdued. Their dreams are on hold.
In all the buildings named for Olympic host cities -- the recreation hall called "Montreal," the women's volleyball team dormitory labeled "Grenoble," the dining hall so inappropriately dubbed "St. Moritz," and the others such as "Athens" and "Helsinki" and even "Moscow" -- every word and deed seem to echo these words uttered Saturday evening by Anita DeFrance, a 1976 Olympic rower:
"It makes it very difficult for me to continue to train, not knowing what I'm training for, but my task is to try to make the Olympic team this year, and I intend to do the best I can to complete the task," she said after the USOC executive board meeting across town at the Broadmore had adjourned.
The board voted to present to the International Olympic Committee, and support, President Carter's request that this summer's Olympics be moved from Moscow, postponed, or canceled.
It delayed taking action on the president's further request that USOC not send a team to Moscow if the Games go on and Soviet invasion forces are not fully withdrawn from Afghanistan by Feb. 20.
But the athletes read the newspapers. They watch TV and listen to the radio. They know that the House of Representatives last week approved by a 386-12 vote a resolution supporting the president's position. They know that American public opinion favors an Olympic pullout if the Games are in Moscow.
They know too that Robert J. Kane, the popular USOC president who has made athletes' right and representation the central theme of this four-year administration, has said that he "cannot imagine that with the national interest at stake, the USOC would take any position other than in accord with Congress and the president." w
"I am not surprised that the American people are incensed and outraged by the Afghanistan invasion," he said. "The question that we have . . . is whether the Olympic movement and the United States Olympic athletes are the kind of a weapon we should use to whip the big bear -- a weapon that is made of flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of our athletes. This is what we're here to do, to try to do the best we can in the guardianship of our Olympic team.
". . .I think if I were president of the United States -- and I live enough trouble with my own job -- I would use every weapon I could in this situation. So I don't personally blame the president for using this. I think it's more symbolism than anything else, but it's a weapon, even if only a psychological one."
The athletes understand. But they still would like to go to the Olympics.
The Athletes Advisory Council -- made up of active or recently retired international competitors in every Olympic and Pan American Games sport, elected by their fellow athletes -- was polled last week.
The question put to each athlete was this: "If the IOC refuses to move the Games from Moscow to an alternate site, or postpone or cancel the Games and if the Soviets do not withdraw from Afghanistan within a month, would you support the sending of a U.S. team to the Moscow Olympics?"
The vote was 30 in favor of going, 12 against going, 2 undecided, and 2 unable to be reached because they were training in Europe.
"This is not a question without difficulty," said Edward G. Williams, chairman of the council.
"I'm very sympathetic, for example, with the women volleyball players, who have taken on training Japanese style. They have been living here at the Training Center for 2 1/2 years. They've given up their normal family lives, jobs, even marriage. They've postponed their education to train six days a week, two workouts a day. They are not ranked third or fourth in the world and have the prospect of doing better than any American team ever has in volleyball, and suddenly they're faced with this prospect of not going.
"But let me say too," William went on, "that I think athletes have taken a very balanced view. Very few, if any, have been talking in extremes. You hear some very cavalier comments from the public, but the athletes are for the most part thoughtful. They realized how difficult this situation is. They also realize that they have a self-interest and that people are aware of that. . . But they are American citizens first."
The resident athletes at the Training Center held a press conference last week and said that while they were "deeply distraught over the blatant attempts by the Soviet Union to militarily control its neighbors," they resented use of the Olympics "as a political lever."
"We have all dedicated years of our lives and made countless personal sacrifices without government support, in order that we may represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games, the athletes' statement went on. "We feel that it is our strong expression of patriotism to the United States that we represent the American people at the Games."
The last paragraph of the USOC's resolution says that it will "continue to select and prepare the United States competes in the Summer Olympic Games of 1980, in order to recognize the athletes who have been training as Olympians."