The United States Olympic track and field team, with a financial lift from Washington, vaulted into this city for its frist stop Friday on a European tour, and for that much, Peter Trost is grateful.
Trost is a German track and field promoter who thought he had pulled off a near-Olympian feat by convincing both the Americans and Soviets to come to an invitational meet here. That was before the boycott.
The Soviets won't be sending anyone now. The East Germans have sent only their regrets. But the American team -- or most of it, anyway -- has shown up, dressed in blue and yellow running suits and hoping the rain stops. It has been pouring in West Germany for a month.
The presence of the Americans, along with track and field stars from more than 30 countries, is enough for Trost to be advertising this meet as a "mini-Olympics."
It's not, really. But it is more than the usual invitational meet. For the fans -- 30,000 are expected over two days if the sun shines -- it will be a chance to see what they won't see in Moscow -- namely, the U.S. team.
For the American athletes, who qualified at trials in Eugene, Ore., it's a kind of consolation prize -- a chance to compete in Europe this summer against top-flight international athletes.
While some of the more experienced U.S. performers would have been invited here on their own, the U.S. Olympic Committee persuaded Congress to finance a trip for the whole team.
"It's difficult to say exactly why we're here," said Jimmy Carnes, the men's coach. "From our point of view, this is not meant to be a substitute for the Olympics.There is no such thing.
"But our Olympic team needed some place to go and the best thing we could reward them with was a trip to Europe."
The first leg of the tour consists of three meets -- in Stuttgart Friday and Saturday, in London Sunday and in Oslo Tuesday. The team then travels back to Philadelphia for a meet July 16 and 17. Other nations boycotting the Moscow Games will also be there.
Following a break for the Olympics -- during which no international competition is permitted by the International Amateur Athletics Federation -- the Americans will fly again to Europe to complete the summer slate with meets in Berlin Aug. 5, in Zurich Aug. 13 and in Nice Aug. 17.
Under the terms of the arrangement, U.S. team members must participate in at least one of the three meets this time through Europe. Since Stuttgart is the first stop, it is expected to be the place where the U.S. squad is most intact. Afterward, a number of the U.S. athletes will probably peel off for a variety of European invitationals.
"Stuttgart and Philadelphia might be the only times the whole team iss together," said Carnes. "We have given them total choice of competition. We have not pressured them, nor do we intend to."
But two of the best U.S. athletes won't even make it to Stuttgart -- 400 meter hurdler Edwin Moses, having run in Stockholm last week is saving his breath for the London meet Sunday, and 100-meter hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah, reportedly intending to stay in the United States.
Among the women missing here is Jodi Anderson, who set a U.S. long jump record at the trials and won the pentathlon. She reportedly remained at home in order to appear in a film.
Then, too, not all of the events on the Olympic program are scheduled here. Left out for men are the 10,000 meters, walking events and the decathlon. Left out for women are the shot put, discus and pentathlon.
In all, 55 American men and 31 women are expected to compete, out of a total U.S. team membership of 110.
Aside from serving as a Moscow stand-in, the U.S. tour is seen by team officials as valuable training for the younger athletes, many of whom have never, or seldom, competed internationally. The U.S. team managers are already looking toward the 1984 Olympics.
"This is basically a chance for some young American athletes to gain a little international experience," said U.S. team spokesman Richard Perelman. "It is this kind of experience that will make the U.S. team better in 1984."
Some of the athletes seem to take a shorter view. "When you run track, you have to get out of it what you can," said Randy Wilson, a 24-year-old physical education teacher from Ankeny, Iowa, who qualified for the 800 meters. "Being here is better than sitting home and doing nothing."
While traveling and dressing as the U.S. Olympic team, the mood of this track and field squad is decidedly, and understandably, other than what it would normally have been.
"It's pretty easy going," said Wilson. "We'll all be competitive on the field. But basically, we've come over here to run a few races and see some sights."
In addition to the U.S. team, the boycotting West Germany and Canadian squads will be participating. Two Soviet-dominated East European countries -- Romania and Hungary -- are also sending athletes, although the Polish team -- including world record high jumper Jacek Wszola and star hurdler Graszyna Rabsztyn -- withdrew this week, reportedly under pressure from senior Polish officials.
Meantime, Trost, the promoter, who represents VFB, the Stuttgart soccer club that spent about $200,000 to sponser the invitation, is trying to make the best of a broken dream. In track, broken records prove more satisfying.