With one eye on the Persian Gulf War, the International Olympic Committee yesterday invited athletes from 165 nations to come to the French Alps next year for the 1992 Winter Games.
From its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, the IOC issued invitations to the Winter Olympics, which will be based in Albertville, France, and held throughout the mountains and valleys of the Savoy region beginning Feb. 8, 1992.
IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch said the war has cast a shadow over the world, but that it is important for sports to continue as part of the quest for peace. "There is a fight for peace. The Olympic movement has to play its role in that fight," he said.
Samaranch signed the invitations that went out to national Olympic committees of the IOC's 165 member countries. The invitations were placed in three bright orange-and-blue mail sacks and taken away by officials of the Swiss and U.S. postal services.
The U.S. Postal Service, represented at the ceremony by deputy director Richard Porras, is an official sponsor of the Games as part of the IOC's TOP program.
Samaranch praised the work of COJO, the Albertville organizing committee, and particularly that of co-presidents Jean-Claude Killy and Michel Barnier, who flanked him on the dais at the announcement.
Killy and Barnier, in turn, thanked the members of the organizing committee for their hard work and said that the planning for the Albertville Games is right on schedule.
"Twelve months away, we think we have all things under control, but we still have a lot of work to do," said Killy, a former Olympic ski champion. "We are where we want to be."
The ceremony was delayed about 40 minutes because Killy and Barnier had to make their way through a heavy snow that doubled the time of their trip from Chamberey, France, to Lausanne. They were not complaining.
"We love the snow," Killy said. "We particularly do given the lack of snow we had the last three years. Business is better and the mood is upbeat."
National Olympic committees have until June 8 to respond to the invitations. At the last Winter Games, in 1988, 57 nations sent athletes. . . .
Chantal Bournissen of Switzerland, who won the gold medal in the combined competition at the world championships, won a women's World Cup downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, edging Carole Merle of France.
Bournissen's winning time was 1 minute 37.01 seconds. Merle, runner-up in the super-giant slalom at the world championships, clocked 1:37.08. Veronika Wallinger of Austria was third in 1:37.45. . . .
Poor visibility because of snow forced the cancellation of a men's World Cup downhill in Val d'Isere, France, the first international event on the future Olympic downhill site.
Another downhill is set for today, with a super-G scheduled for Sunday, but weather forecasts say the snow will continue. . . .
Elena Valbe of the Soviet Union cruised to victory in the women's 15-kilometer race in the world nordic championships in Val Di Fiemme, Italy.
Valbe, who has dominated the women's World Cup races this season, clocked 44:58.5 to beat Trude Dybendahl of Norway by 1:03.9, one of the biggest victory margins in a women's championship race. Stefania Belmondo of Italy took the bronze, 1:32.9 behind Valbe.
The Soviet Union has won two medals in two events and leads the medal standings.