Memorial Day is traditionally the beginning of summer and consequently the beginning of the serious travel season. In recent years, particularly with the advantageous rates of exchange, Americans have traveled overseas in increasing numbers.

Not so this year.

The sweaty threat of terror has seen to that.

Two weeks ago in these pages Christine Brennan wrote a disturbing article detailing the precautions American athletes will take this summer while competing in Europe. Either they will go to great length to shield themselves, or they will not go at all.

"My advice is: Go," says Peter Ueberroth, acknowledging that security was the biggest single endeavor in planning and executing the 1984 L.A. Olympics. "By not going you chalk up a victory for terrorists." Ueberroth says in terms of personal safety he would "worry more about an accident on European highways than about terrorism." As vivid a memory as the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes in Munich remains, it is Ueberroth's belief, ironically, that the resonance of that filthy act has made international competitions safer: "Terrorists learned that killing athletes was the worst way to garner sympathy to their cause. The more totally international the field is, the more universal the outrage at a terrorist act would be."

Yet even those who will go are nervous. American athletes, including golfer Hale Irwin and cyclist Davis Phinney, view themselves as potential targets for any madman pamphleteer. You buy your ticket and you take your seat. Ivan Lendl asks: "If anyone wanted to blow up Roland Garros site of French Open tennis , how could you stop it?" And indeed, how could you? For that matter, if anyone wanted to blow up Capital Centre, how would we stop it?

The world gets smaller all the time. And currently, for Americans -- tourists and athletes -- it has gotten meaner. Recognizing that, the U.S. Olympic Committee has made security guidelines available to traveling amateur American athletes that say, essentially: keep your eyes open, your voice soft, and your colors discreetly covered. "Keep a low profile," advises Mike Moran, the USOC's communications man. "Don't advertise blatantly that you're American. That's the idea."

Take good care.

Soviet and Israeli athletes, for example, have known this all along. Their arrival on most foreign soil is not celebrated, and they act accordingly, going to friendly rooms when possible, but always keeping the lights on and the motor running. They are prudent travelers, discretion being the better part of valor. There is much they can teach us and, now, much we have to learn. "Prudence and caution never hurts," agrees Ueberroth.

For it has come to this, that we wear one traveling uniform in the United States and Canada and another in the rest of the world, that the florid days of Rambo-ism and We're Number One-ism have been muted into something more subdued, something less inflammatory, that now when our athletes travel overseas, they'll seem less like a billboard of wealth and power and more like a snapshot. We have worn our diamond rings on everybody's nose, gloating as slot machines emptied themselves into our hats. We must remember that the line between envy and resentment is as reedy thin as the fuse of a bomb.

It should surprise no one that sport is once again a stepchild to politics. Five straight summer Olympics have been undercut as governments continue to see sport as a means of political redress.

Propaganda is the currency of nations. Where better to court public opinion than on the broad, muscular back of its young champions? Isn't that what Hitler sought to do with the 1936 Berlin Olympics? And wasn't Jesse Owens our antidote to that poison? Isn't East Germany a nation whose entire identity seems wrapped around its sports program? Standing alone on the victory platform is a sure way to an open microphone and an attentive audience. To say that sport and politics are anything but inextricably girded is dreamy.

For an athlete to be frightened off a competition is significant because an athlete is by nature a courageous person, and this is a decision he or she reluctantly makes. The threat of terrorism has been around before, but this fear is new. It is on us like pollen, coating our nasal passages, going deep into our lungs. We are an exuberant, enthusiastic people, and it is unlike us to be thus stricken. So if indeed there is something to fear beyond fear itself, then the courage it takes to press forward with all deliberate speed is the courage we need to find. And if that means going overseas and walking with less of a swagger and talking more humbly, there are medicines harder to swallow. To say that sport and politics are anything but inextricably girded is dreamy.

For an athlete to be frightened off a competition is significant because an athlete is by nature a courageous person, and this is a decision he or she reluctantly makes. The threat of terrorism has been around before, but this fear is new. It is on us like pollen, coating our nasal passages, going deep into our lungs. We are an exuberant, enthusiastic people, and it is unlike us to be thus stricken. So if indeed there is something to fear beyond fear itself, then the courage it takes to press forward with all deliberate speed is the courage we need to find. And if that means going overseas and walking with less of a swagger and talking more humbly, there are medicines harder to swallow.