QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Lord Killanin, the president of the International Olympic Committee, was asked the other day whether there was a possibility that the country which invaded Afghanistan might possibly use the Summer Olympics for propaganda purposes. Killanin replied that he didn't think so because "if they did, they could be in breach of [ IOC] rules."
LET IT SNOW
SI's Brooks Clark reports from Lake Placid, N.Y.: "There's a large wooden sign on Main Street here reading IT'S NO MIRACLE—IT'S REAL SNOW! Well, there has been snow this winter on Whiteface Mountain and on some cross-country ski trails all right, but until now it has been mostly machine-made. The other day, with barely two weeks to go till the opening ceremonies, honest-to-goodness snow fell—five inches of it—easing fears among members of the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee (LPOOC) that some events of the Winter Olympics might have to be held elsewhere. That sign on Main Street notwithstanding, the real snow did seem rather like a miracle.
"The need now is for similar divine intervention to help unload the 135,000 tickets for Olympic events (out of 550,000 total) that remain unsold. To be sure, ever since the LPOOC set aside tickets for tour operators, it has said it was sold out, apparently on the principle of 'out of sight, out of mind.' The illusion was shattered when the tour operators had trouble selling their Olympic packages. They claim to have been hurt by stories that visitors to Lake Placid during the Olympics would encounter monstrous traffic jams and a shortage of restaurants, motel rooms and toilets.
"In an effort to dispel the specter of impending disaster, one LPOOC official, Kevin McHale, says of Lake Placid's ability to handle visitors, 'It's the same as when 90,000 people descend on Norman, Okla. in the fall. It seems impossible, but it works.' Fears about a shortage of rooms, anyway, seem unwarranted. Tour operators generally have motel rooms to go with their tickets and there are indications that the superinflated rental market may degenerate into a last-minute fire sale. David Stalker, for instance, has been reduced to advertising a mobile home for the 13-day Games at the bargain-basement price of a suite at the Waldorf—$2,500 'or best offer.'
"Some local merchants complain that along with an absence of snow, promotional blunders by the LPOOC have resulted in disappointing pre-Olympic business. They point in particular to a poorly attended hockey tournament in December advertised by posters neglecting to mention that Canada was playing the Soviet Union. But then, Lake Placid's organizers have never claimed to be slick. On the contrary, they have represented themselves all along as lovable country folk, staging what Press Director Ed Lewi continues to call 'an Olympics in perspective, an Olympics of a small community.' And indeed, there is a certain quaintness in the fact that the Olympic speed-skating oval is situated on the football field at Lake Placid Central High and that the liquor store across the street—identified simply as 'Liquor Store'—has a sign in the window, COME IN, WE SPEAK OLYMPIC.
"While there are rumors that Lake Placid is going to take a financial bath, even the LPOOC's sternest critics agree that General Manager Petr Spurney has done a good job of keeping his operation afloat—so far. Of course, politics have a way of intruding. Last week Liang Ren-Guey, a cross-country skier on the Republic of China's team, filed suit in New York State Supreme Court to halt the Games on the grounds that he and his 17 teammates have been wronged by an International Olympic Committee ruling that they must compete under the name of ' China Taipei' and refrain from using their own flag and anthem. And three days before the Games begin, the IOC will meet in Lake Placid and discuss whether to move the Moscow Summer Games. An advance party of several U.S.S.R. officials has been staying under tight security in Lake Placid for some time now, preparing for the arrival of their athletes, who, as far as anyone knows, will compete in the Winter Games. It remains to be seen whether anybody will speak Olympic to them."
DEFENDING THE DEFENSELESS
Not long ago, in The New Yorker, Faith McNulty wrote that the manatee may be "the only example of a higher mammal that lives its life virtually without aggression toward its own species or any other.... The manatee is a mammal, like us. It has a brain and a nervous system much like ours, but one characteristic so fatally pervasive in the rest of the animal world has somehow been bred out of it. The manatee will not fight, even to protect itself or to save its young. It injures no other vertebrate creature. Surely there is some use in contemplating this uniquely blameless life."
Because of the qualities described by McNulty, the manatee is in trouble. The animal is on the federal endangered-species list and its U.S. population, which is confined mostly to Florida, is fewer than 1,000. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service warns that its numbers may well be declining.