TOWARD AN OPEN OLYMPICS
The Olympic movement is slowly but surely embracing professionalism. Last week International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch said he expected the IOC, which meets in Lausanne, Switzerland, next week, to approve proposals from the governing bodies of tennis and ice hockey that pros play in those sports at the '88 Games. Approvals would carry caveats to assuage Eastern bloc nations long opposed to opening up the Games. Admitting professional tennis players—yes, McEnroe, Lendl & Co. would be eligible—will be on an "experimental" basis, but observers agree that once pros enter the Olympics they won't be turned out again. "It's an experiment whose result is already known," says IOC executive board member Dick Pound of Canada.
A move to delegate all eligibility decisions to the individual federations has been stalled by the Eastern bloc, but support for it is growing. If it isn't approved before the Seoul Games, it should pass soon thereafter. When it is eventually ratified, several federations—soccer, track and equestrian among them—will certainly open their doors to pros. One surprise aspect of the drift toward professionalism is that the United States, home of so many big-money athletes, is not leading the way. On the contrary, the U.S. Olympic Committee remains firmly on the fence. "The USOC agrees with the option of the international federations determining their own eligibility rules, but we are not for an open Games," says USOC spokesman Mike Moran. "I know that sounds like a contradiction, but while we feel the federations should have that right, at the same time we'd feel stung if that led to an open Games." The reasons behind the stance are threefold, Moran explains candidly: "First, it would have a very direct adverse effect on our fundraising. If the public sees rich athletes in U.S. uniforms, that'll hurt us. Second, several sports think it would wreak havoc with their youth programs, because the good young athletes couldn't necessarily get to the Games. Third, we do still have adherents of the old school of amateurism within the USOC." Responding to the charge that the USOC simply doesn't want to deal with rich and independent athletes it won't be able to control, Moran says, "We don't control athletes, so that point is irrelevant. But, yes, you have a valid point if you're talking about the national governing bodies. How is ABA- USA going to produce a basketball team with a Larry Bird, who's under contract to some shoe company and has to answer to that company first?"
The USOC's middling position reflects the recent reality of the Olympics—where some pros are pros and some are not—but increasingly it seems archaic. Pound, who many believe will succeed Samaranch as IOC president in 1989, sounds more like the voice of Olympics future: "If the Games are going to be simon pure, fine. But they're not that way, and things have to change."
Rev. Harold Stoa of the Lutheran Bible Institute in Issaquah, Wash., recently scored two holes-in-one on consecutive days and thinks it may help business. "Maybe now people will go to church on Sunday first," he says, "and then go golfing."
I KNEW I FORGOT SOMETHING!
Last Dec. 8 at the Turfway Park Track in Florence, Ky., somebody invested $1,944 in Pick Six wagering. All six horses won, and the guy's gamble was worth $77,434.80. Get this: The money is still unclaimed; it's believed to be the largest unclaimed payoff in thoroughbred racing history. If the absentminded bettor doesn't speak up by Nov. 1, 1988, the cash goes to the state.
GOLF IN A BRAVE NEW WORLD
Some might argue that a sand trap is no place for government intervention, or that politicians should find more substantive issues to address. But remember: We're talking about Los Angeles here.
The latest from Ellay is the "Go Golf bill now before the city council. Designed to speed up play on the city's 13 public courses, the legislation would require a foursome to complete nine holes in two hours and 20 minutes or be forced to leave the course. Golfers would clock in at the first tee, and marshals on mopeds and bicycles would patrol the course and spur any dawdlers. If the report of a Go Golf study group is approved this month, a test of the plan will be staged at four courses during November.
The L.A. parks department says the impetus for Go Golf was a pile of complaint letters from some of the 30,000 golfers who play the municipal courses annually. "Slow play is without a doubt one of the major problems at our city courses," says Zev Yaroslavsky, the city councilman who proposed the measure and who knows what causes slow play. "You have people engaging in family gossip." No!