Despite strong United States government opposition, the International Olympic Committee is planning to raise the Stars and Stripes during closing ceremonies for the controversial Olympics here Aug. 3. Flying the American flag is the IOC's traditional way of signifying that the next Summer Games will be held in the U.S.
Monique Berlioux, director of the Lausanne-based IOC, said today that Olympic officials would proceed with their usual protocol, even though she had received a letter from the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland, informing her that the U.S. did not want its flag used in any connection with the Moscow Games.
Officials of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow made the same point last month in visits to the Soviet foreign ministry and the Moscow Olympic Organizing Committee. The U.S. and approximately 50 other nations are boycotting the Games, which will begin Saturday, to protest Soviet military aggression in Afghanistan.
The chairman of the organizing committee Ignati T. Novikov, said today that he had received two written requests from the U.S. government that its flag not be used, but that the closing ceremonies were under IOC jurisdiction and Olympic officials must resolve the question.
Berlioux said she wrote to Ambassador George Vine in Bern, the Swiss capital, after receiving his letter. She explained that raising the flag of the nation in which the next host city is located, in this case the U.S. since Los Angeles will be the site of the 1984 Summer Games, was part of IOC protocol, as stipulated in the Olympic charter.
She further explained that, technically, the raising of the U.S. flag would be the first act of protocol for the Los Angeles Games, and not a ceremonial part of the Moscow Games.
She told reporters here that she had received no further correspondence from the ambassador or any other U.S. government official, and took this as a signal that it was all right for the IOC to use the American flag in closing exercises because "my letter called for a reply only if they disagreed."
Berlioux said that outgoing IOC President Lord Killanin of Ireland also had contacts with U.S. government officials on the matter, and that he understood that the IOC could proceed with its traditional flag-raising.
But a U.S. embassy spokesman here said tonight of Berlioux's interpretation, "She's dead wrong. She has misinterpreted or misunderstood what our policy is. We oppose the use of the U.S. flag or national anthem for any event in connection with the Olympics in Moscow. Including the final ceremony.
"It has been our policy all along that we oppose use of our flag at any of the sports federation meetings, the IOC meetings, the Games or the final ceremony," the spokesman continued. He refused to speculate on what action the U.S. would take if the IOC went ahead with the flag-raising against its wishes, but added: "It seems to me that the flag and anthem belong to the people of the U.S. and not to the IOC."
Berlioux said, "The American flag will be raised after the flame goes out, to indicate that the next games are in Los Angeles." However, the IOC charter calls for the flag representing the next host city to be raised, and the national anthem of the future host played, before the Games are declared closed, the Olympic torch extinguished and the flag of the current host lowered. "The Olympic venues are under the jurisdiction of the IOC, not the host city," Berlioux said. But when asked who has the responsibility of obtaining flags for ceremonies, she said: "The organizing committee. They do all these practical matters."
The Moscow organizing committee was eager to sidestep this latest controversy in their troubled games.
"We had intended to (raise the American flag)," said Novikov. "However, in written form, the United States has instructed us twice that we should not raise their flag.This was a request of the country itself, not our decision. I don't know how the IOC will resolve this question."
Meanwhile, the IOC members settled into their crucial 83rd session today and resolved a lingering question of protocol for Saturday's opening ceremonies. Twenty of the 80 nations that are participating in the boycott-diminished Games will be permitted to substitute the Olympic flag and hynm for their national flags and anthems in ceremonies as a means of protesting the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.
Ten countries whose national Olympic committees voted to attend the Games, in some cases against strong government urging to stay away, will not have their athletes march in the opening parade.
Great Britain, for example, will have only one official in the parade, and he will carry a plaque designated "B.O.A." -- for British Olympic Association -- rather than Great Britian. He will carry an IOC flag instead of a Union Jack. The same flag will be raised and the Olympic hymn played in presentation ceremonies if a British athlete wins a medal.
Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Holland, Portugal, San Marino and Switzerland will follow the same unusual procedures in ceremonies. m
The IOC's executive board decided last week that these alternatives to the customary protocol fulfilled the provisions of the Olympic charter, and the membership agreed, Berlioux said at a press briefing following the first day of the working session.
The 70 members who were present today, and four more expected to arrive Wednesday, next will turn their attention to a report from the Los Angeles organizing committee and to election of a successor to Lord Killanin to lead the IOC for the next eight years.
The altered protocol was a blow to the Moscow organizing committee, which today held a lengthy press conference to extol its plans for the pageant at which Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev will declare open the Games of the 22nd Olympiad.
The colorful ceremonies, lasting nearly three hours, will have 16,000 participants, including dance troupes in native costume from all 15 Soviet socialist republics and the cream of young Soviet gymnasts, actors, actresses and bands.
The IOC membership was reduced to 85 today with the resignation of 74-year-old Francois Joseph II, prince regent of Liechtenstein and one of 10 noblemen in the august, self-appointed and self-perpetuating body that owns and controls the Olympic Games.
Five men declared their candidacy in Wednesday's presidential election: Lance Cross of New Zealand, Willi Daume of West Germany, Marc Hodler of Switzerland, Juan Antonio Samaranch of Spain and James Worrall of Canada.
Samaranch, the quiet but clever career diplomat who is Spain's ambassador to the Soviet Union, is considered the favorite. But his chances could be hurt by the absence of four Latin American members and the surprise candidacies of two other West Europeans, Daume and Hodler.
Daume once was regarded as Killanin's likely successor, but his aspirations appeared to be dashed when the West German Olympic Committee, of which he is president, voted to join the Moscow boycott.
Hodler is considered too forceful a personality by most Eastern Bloc members, who generally support the more compromise-minded Samaranch. Hodler also is opposed by the amateur purists within the conservative IOC because he is president of the International Ski Federation, considered the most tolerant of creeping professionalism of the 26 international federations that govern the theoretically amateur Olympic sports.
Worrall, 67, a jovial and goodnatured confidant of Killanin, appears the most likely dark horse to succeed the 66-year-old Irish peer if Samaranch falters. Worrall, a lawyer who was an Olympic hurdler in the controversial 1936 Berlin Olympics, has few enemies.
Killanin's recommendation that the 1988 Winter and Summer Olympics not be allocated to cities until the 1982 IOC session in Rio de Janeiro was rejected, and the hosts will be chosen during the Olympic Congress in Baden-Baden, West Germany, next year.
The announced candidates for the 1988 Summer Games are Nagoya, Japan, and Melbourne, Australia. London and Brussels may make bids.
The unofficial winter condidates are Calgary, Canada; Cortina diAmpezzo, Italy, and a multicity coaliton in Sweden. The Tatra mountain region of Czechoslovakia also is considering a bid.
Killanin had rcommended postponing a decision until 1982 to "allow the dust to settle" from the political storm over the Moscow Games, but apparently the IOC members think the fallout will not be as serious as some doomsayers have suggested.
Novikov seemed to reinforce that attitude today when he was asked if the Soviet Union would take part in the '84 Los Angeles Games, or stay away in a counterboycott. "We want to be present, and we shall try to be present, unlike the Americans," he said. ". . . time can change a great deal. We would like to think there will be a good mutual understanding in the future, after what has happened. It will be a pleasure for us to participate, if we are invited."