In form and diversity, the current meeting of Olympic sports officials represents a sort of United Nations conference on sport, with all of the same diplomacy, wordiness and slow search for compromise.
Calls this week for changes in Olympic eligibility rules that prohibit commercial payments to athletes, for greater participation by women and for less political influence in world sporting competition could lead to alterations in the nature of the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles and in subsequent Olympics.
Concern that the Games are getting too large, too commercial, too political and too expensive have raised a certain sense of peril about the future of the Games among the more than 600 officials of international sports federations and national Olympic committees at the congress here.
Still, one year after the U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Summer Games, the delegates here prefer to think of their sporting groups as more united than ever.
Soviet officials and speakers from black African nations have stayed away from a speculated boycott threat against the Los Angeles Games in connection with the recent U.S. tour by the South African rugby team, the Springboks.
The ease with which the South African issue got pushed into the background was credited largely to efforts by the International Olympic Committee's president, Juan Samaranch, who met early in the week with black African officials to underscore that the IOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee had lived up to the Olympic charter by doing all they could to block the Springboks' tour.
The quiet, soothing style of Samaranch, 61, a Spanish industrialist with professional diplomatic experience as an ambassador to the Soviet Union, helped to set the gentlemanly tone of of the congress. In the one year he has been IOC chief, Samaranch appears to have strengthened his ties to Third World countries while maintaining good relations with the Soviet-bloc and Latin countries.
This congress will particularly be remembered for the appearance of recent Olympic medal winners, who registered grievances over eligibility rules, drug control, women's participation and political interference in international competition.
As a parliament without power, the delegates here will be left watching next week's formal IOC meeting to see what concrete compromises can be struck on some of their chief concerns. Of greatest interest is how the IOC will steer between strong Western pressure to relax Olympic eligibility rules and tough Soviet opposition to any changes.
Among the other important themes to be discussed:
* Size of the Games. During the past 20 years, the number of Olympic participants has doubled, due to addition of more countries, more sports and more women. There is pressure to add new sports, but officials here want to avoid making the Olympics a replica of world championships for each sport.
* Ceremony. The Soviets argue that attempts by Western athletes at last summmer's Games to avoid national flags and anthems left the public dissastisfied, and they urge a return to symbols of national participation. A vocal minority of Western officials would prefer to see less emphasis on nationalism in the Games.
* Drugs. There is strong support here for tightening controls on the use of drugs by athletes in training and competition through the establishment of international full-time drug-control centers.
* Sites. In view of the increasing difficulty of a single town or city to accommodate nearly 12,000 Olympic athletes and officials, there has been some discussion, but no apparent consensus, on either choosing semipermanent sites or permanently holding the games in Greece.