The United States Olympic Committee, in its first significant action under new leadership, today served notice that it may consider its image more important than its pocketbook.
The USOC's Executive Board passed a resolution approving the establishment of a "Friendship Program" that would result in spending up to $7 million of the $215 million surplus from the Los Angeles Olympics to reimburse participating nations for their Olympic Village expenses.
The resolution, coming on the final day of the USOC House of Delegates' meetings at the Broadmoor Hotel, will be presented Monday at the executive board meeting of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee in Los Angeles.
USOC President Jack Kelly, who will deliver the resolution to the LAOOC board, said he "wouldn't want to predict" the response from the LAOOC, which several months ago proposed a controversial plan to distribute some of the surplus to Third World nations.
The USOC plan, debated for an hour this morning, was called a "good will" gesture by USOC Second Vice President Evie G. Dennis.
"I think the good will this small amount of money will cause when we're talking about a surplus that is going up every day . . . is good," she said.
Kelly was concerned with the reaction if the USOC did not pass the resolution. "If we do not support this, we could be criticized as being greedy and selfish," he told the board.
Some didn't care about public relations.
"Very few of our (international) colleagues said thank you (after the Olympics). All we heard was grumbling," said William Wall, executive director of the Amateur Basketball Association of the U.S. "All we heard when the surplus was announced was that America's made money. Nobody's ever paid for us to go anywhere."
Others, like Henry Marsh, a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team in the steeplechase, disagreed. "We want to come out of this so we don't have egg on our faces internationally," said Marsh, the new chairman of the USOC Athletes' Advisory Council.
Kelly, who is a member of the LAOOC's executive board, said it was particularly important to reimburse nations because of the Soviet-led boycott.
"Many of the nations that did attend were asked to bring extra athletes (after the boycott was announced)," Kelly said. "Had they not done this, some of the (preliminary) sessions would have had to be canceled, and some tickets would have had to be refunded."
The USOC, offended that the LAOOC would make its Third World proposal without consulting it, complained -- and prepared its own plan. If the LAOOC does not support the USOC plan, Kelly said the $7 million would go back into the LAOOC surplus pool.
The money in that pool is distributed according to a formula: 40 percent to the LAOOC, 40 percent to the USOC, and 20 percent to the national governing bodies of individual sports.