Former U.S. treasury secretary William E. Simon took over as president of the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) today, pronounced the organization in sound financial health and promptly urged a five-point plan for building American teams for the 1984 Olympic Games.
Simon, 53, was elected to a four-year term as president by the USOC House of Delgates at its meeting at the Broadmoor Hotel. A respected businessman and financial expert who served as Secretary of the Treasury in the Nixon and Ford administrations and was America's first "energy czar," Simon has been associated with the Olympic Committee for 16 years. He was national fund-raising chairman in 1969-73 and USOC treasurer the past hour years.
"Let us put aside any divisivenes and pettiness that has at times handicapped our efforts in the past. Let us constantly remind outselves that it is the athlete that we serve." Simon said in an address to the delegates after his election.
He stressed the need for a strong fund-raising program to support to expansion of training and development programs begun in the past four years, including the national Olympic Training Center here, an ambitious sports medicine and research program, annual national sports festivals for promising amateur athletes and the Job Opportunities program for Olympic hopefuls in training.
Simon promised to continue the commitment of his predecessor, Robert J. Kane, to increasing the representation of athletes and women at all levels of the USOC, including key committee assignments. He also recommended stepping up international exchange programs for athletes, coaches, trainers and others as a means for the USOC to "regain its place in the sun" in the world sports community.
"We have just finished the most difficult and tumultuous four years in our Olympic history, culminating in the supreme sacrifice by the athletes not going to Moscow, but in my judgment we have emerged stronger and more united than ever before," said Simon, who was a strong supporter of the U.S.-led boycott of last summer's Moscow Olympics in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
"We are at a new beginning . . . We have a singular purpose, a singular goal, and that is fielding the strongest Olympic team in history for both the Winter Games in Yugoslavia and the Summer Games in Los Angeles in 1984."
To accomplish this objective, Simon called for a five-point program:
Early appointment of national coaches to work with potential Olympians in various sports.
Selection of top athletes for the National Sports Festivals in 1981, 1982 and 1983.
Early selection of training squads in team sports to facilitate concentrated training, including international competition.
Early identification of a nucleus of contenders in individual sports, so that they can benefit from existing programs.
Increased use of sports medicine and training facilities.
"Our sports medicine program must be designed to handle the requirements of the individual athletes, including physical examination, testing, recommendation of corrective measures and a complete profile to be given to each athlete," said Simon, who has pledged to expand the already impressive resources of the Olympic Training Center. "We are looking forward to our potential Olympians making full use of these facilities in order to help maximize their skills and techniques."
In a meeting with reporters, Simon said he did not envision an "East-German-style" program in which young athletes would be scientifically tested and trained in a highly regimented program. Rather, he wants to make sophisticated coaching and training techniques, and the benefits of biomechanical and sports-medicine research, available to highly talented and motivated athletes so that they can improve their technique and reach their full potential.
"We have a training center and programs that weren't available four years ago," he said. "I don't even think we've scratched the surface of what we can do for the individual athlete.
"And the better our Olympic athletes perform, the more incentive there is for young athletes all over the country who follow their example."
Expanded programs will cost money, of course, and the House of Delegates Sunday will consider a proposed $71.2 million budget for the 1981-84 quadrennium. "We're in sound financial shape and our fund-raising outlook is very bright, especially considering the potential problems we faced last April," said Simon, who estimated that the budget figure could increase as much as 25 percent if revenues keep pace.
The Moscow boycott caused a severe reduction in private and corporate contributions last winter, and led to a shortfall of approximately $8.6 million in projected revenues for the 1977-80 quadrennium, but that has since been made up, Simon said in his treasurer's report. It now appears that expenditures of $51.2 million, about $2.2 million over budget, will be covered by revenues, he said.
"Operation Gold," an emergency fund-raising program in which the federal government agreed to contribute 50 cents for every dollar raised in new private and corporate contributions as a means of offsetting the impact of the boycott, has raised $18 million, Simon said, "at a time when our cash flow was at its most critical level."
Outgoing president Kane, in an eloquent and bittersweet speech that reviewed the considerable accomplishments of his administration as well as the trauma of the boycott campaign and last April's House of Delegates vote not to send an American team to the Olympics for the first time, said: "American business and industry, and the American people, are with us as never before, and in the most sincere way I know -- in dollars."