For those who didn't get enough amateur sports during the last three weeks when the Goodwill Games made their debut, the U.S. Olympic Festival might satisfy that desire.
What used to be called the National Sports Festival will begin a 10-day run with Friday night's opening ceremonies in the Astrodome. The approximately 4,000 athletes, competing in 34 sports, will parade in amid the usual extravaganza of fireworks, lasers, music and celebrities. As of noon today, 31,000 tickets had been sold for the opening ceremonies, according to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The Festival -- which has been held in non-Olympic years since 1978 -- is an attempt by the USOC to help develop future Olympians, and also keep the flame burning in the minds of the U.S. public, which tends to concentrate only during Olympic years.
Track and field will have a number of big names, though the biggest, hurdler Edwin Moses, remains a question mark. Festival organizers were not able to contact Moses, who has been competing in Europe, so he was dropped from the list of competitors.
"Now it looks like he might come," said Mike Moran, the USOC's director of public information. "He told the AP in Europe that he was on his way." And that certainly would give him plenty of time to show up for the 400-meter hurdles, which are scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 2.
Some other rearrangements would have to be made, "but we'll do whatever we can," said Moran, who did not specify what would need rearranging. He added, "Edwin Moses is a good friend of the U.S. Olympic Committee."
But the list of those who are expected is impressive. Jackie Joyner, who set a world record in the heptathlon at the Goodwill Games, is competing, as are 1984 Olympic gold medalists Carl Lewis and Evelyn Ashford. Ashford, who holds the world record in the 100 meters (10.76 seconds) and won the event in Moscow, will run in that event and in the 4x100 meter relay.
While Lewis and Ashford are established, Philadelphia's William Reed is a name to watch for the future. Reed is the national high school leader in the 100 and 200 meters.
The pole vault and triple jump are two of the stronger events. In the pole vault, Joe Dial and Earl Bell are scheduled to compete, and in the triple jump, world record holder Willie Banks, Goodwill Games champion Mike Conley and Charlie Simpkins will compete for a gold medal.
Olympic gold medal diver Greg Louganis did not compete in the Goodwill Games but will here; at least in part because the Festival competition will be used to choose the U.S. team that will compete in the world championships in late August. The top two finishers in each event in these games will advance.
That is not the case in swimming. The Festival competition reflects the desire to use this year's Festival to train swimmers for a more distant future. The 1987 Festival will have a much stronger field, Moran said.
"Next year is the most critical in terms of picking Olympic candidates," Moran said of the summer before the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul. "The swimmers next year will be the elite, whereas this year they are all junior-age swimmers."
In a Festival first, Soviet athletes will compete in exhibitions in cycling, boxing and ice dancing.
The boxing events will be held Aug. 2 and will match the Festival medalists against Soviet boxers in six Olympic weight classes. The cycling exhibition will be July 29 and will have members of the Soviet National Cycling team against Festival medalists in four major events for men and women. The Festival cycling field includes 1984 Olympic men's sprint silver medalist Nelson Vails.
This will be the first Festival that has had blacks in swimming events -- James Berry of Clearwater, Fla., and Byron Davis of East Cleveland, Ohio.
In the basketball competition, which is limited to players 20 years old or younger, Virginia Beach's J.R. Reid will lead the men's South team, which will be coached by new Northwestern Coach Bill Foster. The East team will include Kenny Sanders of George Mason, Sam Jefferson, a freshman-to-be at Georgetown, and Darryl Prue of the District and West Virginia.
The women's competition will include four Maryland players or recruits. Deanna Tate and Carolin Dehn-Duhr will be joined on the East team by freshman-to-be Edna Campbell. Recruit Beth Hunt will play for the South.