The United States Olympic Committee, which is facing dwindling contributions and potential financial problems as a result of President Carter's request that the U.S. not send a team to this summer's Olympic Games in Moscow, said today it will comply with the president's request but will not take formal action until April.
"The USOC will accept any decision concerning our participation in the Games the president makes in view of his analysis of what is best for the country," USOC President Robert J. Kane said at a press conference here.
Executive Director F. Don Miller said the Carter administration has given the USOC no deadline for declining its invitation to Moscow, however, and that the matter would be decided by the USOC House of Delegates in Colorado Springs, April 11-13.
Meanwhile, Kane said, the USOC has until May 24 to formally notify the Moscow Olympic Organizing Committee whether it is sending a team, and will try to keep open the option of participating if the Soviets withdraw their invasion forces from Afghanistan and make Moscow "a more propitious site for Games celebrated in a spirit of peace and international friendship."
Kane expressed hopes that a Soviet troop withdrawal and peace initiatives in coming months might swing American public opinion in favor of American participation at Moscow and persuade President Carter to support sending a U.S. team.
The president reiterated his opposition to American participation in Moscow at his press conference Wednesday, saying: "If the Soviet Union does not withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the 20th of this month, then niether I nor the American people nor the Congress will support the sending of an Olympics team to Moscow this summer."
Asked specifically if he might change his mind if the Soviets withdraw troops between Feb. 20 and May 24, the president said: "I don't see any possibility of that."
Kane commented today: "That's sort of a qualified statement. It can be read in different ways. We try to cling to any slim hope these days, and what he sees no possibility in today, he may see possibility in a little later if world conditions change."
Miller said that USOC fund-raising, which historically peaks in the period from a month before the Winter Olympics until a month after the Summer Games, had declined in the last three weeks, from 118 percent of the projected figure on Jan. 26 to 96 percent of the targeted total now.
As of the start of the year, the USOC had raised $32.6 million of its $43 million budget for the quadrennium ending Dec. 31, 1980. If fund-raising continues at the current rate, Miller, it would fall short of that total and some cutbacks in programs would be necessary.
Only about 10 percent of the budget was allocated to sending a team of approximately 550 American athletes to Moscow, Miller said. The rest supports the USOC training centers in Colorado Springs and Squaw Valley, Calif., its sports medicine and job-opportunity programs, $10 million in grants to the national governing bodies of various sports for grass-roots development, and other ongoing programs, he said.
White House counsel Lloyd Cutler has raised the possibility that the federal government could reimburse the USOC for losses incurred by complying with the president's requests, but Kane said today: "We don't want to be bought off. We are in an ironic position, because we are one of the few national Olympic committees in the world that gets no money from our government. We have never gotten a dime."
Congress authorized a $16 million grant to the USOC for its grass-roots, sports medicine and training-center projects in November, 1978, but the money never has been appropriated.
Kane said that some corporate sponsors have indicated they will withdraw support if the U.S. does not field an Olympic team this summer, and "we might have some lawsuits and might have to give back some money."
Kane said he does not expect the USOC to be subject to sanctions from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which could jeopardize Los Angeles as the host of the 1984 Summer Olympics, for violating the IOC rule that national Olympics committees must resist pressure from their governments in making decisions.
"However you look at it, the national interest must come first, and I would judge that it would come first with any of the 142 nations in the Olympics movement," Kane said. "I would think that the IOC would be on pretty weak ground to suspend the United States because we found it's not in our national interest to participate in Moscow . . . and made that decision in cooperation with our government."
Miller said the USOC is making contingency plans to hold a National Sports Festival for American athletes if they do not go to Moscow this summer. He has had talks with all three major commercial television networks about televising these games, which would be open only to Americans, he said.