China and Japan announced support last week for President Carter's threatened boycott of the Moscow Olympics, bringing to more than 40 the number of nations the Administration claims to have in its corner, either publicly or privately. State Department officials expect that the number eventually will reach as many as 60 countries, and 81-year-old Douglas Roby, one of the two U.S. members of the International Olympic Committee, predicts that if that many nations do indeed stay away from Moscow, the Games "probably" will be canceled.
Roby, who has been an IOC member for 28 years, believes that canceling the Summer Games is preferable to moving them because "holding some shoddy replacement would embarrass the entire Olympic movement." But Roby also implies that an IOC decision to scrap the Games would come only after the Olympic committees of a substantial number of the 136 countries recognized by the organization heed their government's wishes and formally serve notice that they are staying home.
Should Carter's proposal to move, postpone or cancel the Games be put to a vote by the IOC's 89 individual delegates in the meantime—say, at this week's IOC meetings in Lake Placid—both Roby and the other American IOC member, Julian Roosevelt, indicate that they probably would cast ballots against it. In other words, while Carter appears to be making inroads with foreign governments, he can't even count on the support of the two American delegates to the IOC. "I'm a patriotic American, but it's kind of a problem," says Roby. "We have a strong rule in the IOC forbidding us to yield to political intervention."
Other Olympic developments:
? President Carter dispatched a new diplomatic troubleshooter, Muhammad Ali, of all people, to Africa Sunday to try to persuade black African leaders that an Olympic boycott would be an appropriate response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. No sooner did Ali arrive, however, than he told reporters in Tanzania, startlingly, "If I find out I'm wrong, I'm going to go back to America and cancel the whole trip." Ironically, black African officials only recently withdrew their threat to boycott the Moscow Games if a tour of South Africa by Britain's Lions rugby team begins as scheduled in May. The Africans now are threatening to punish the British for such a tour by seeking to scuttle the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia.
?Since the inauguration of the modern Olympics in 1896, the Games usually have been opened by the heads of state of the host countries. Those held in the U.S. are exceptions. The opening of the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis was presided over not by Theodore Roosevelt but by former Missouri Governor David R. Francis. In 1932 President Hoover left it to New York Governor Franklin Roosevelt to open the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid and to Vice-President Charles Curtis to do likewise at the Summer Games in Los Angeles. And in 1960, Vice-President Nixon, not Dwight Eisenhower, opened the Winter Games in Squaw Valley. Last week the White House announced that because of his preoccupation with events in Iran and Afghanistan—but no doubt also because he might find it a trifle awkward—President Carter will not open the Lake Placid Olympics but has deputized Vice-President Mondale to do the honors instead.
?The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution endorsing Greece as the permanent site of the Summer Olympics, a proposal previously advanced by Jimmy Carter, Henry Kissinger and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm J. Fraser. Greek Prime Minister Constantine Karamanlis has also called for "the revival of the Olympic Games in their ancient cradle," arguing that this would somehow help the Olympic movement "rid itself of all those false elements that have gradually accumulated and threatened it with decay." IOC spokesman Alain Coupat replies that rotating the Games to various sites has the virtue of exposing athletes to "different civilizations and cultures." The trouble with this argument is that a given athlete only rarely competes in more than one or two Olympics. The only people who can count on savoring different civilizations and cultures are members of the press, well-heeled fans, national Olympic administrators—and, of course, IOC officials.
ME TARZAN, YOU TROJANE
Entire books are given over to suggested names for Baby, but those newborns of sports, women's college teams, have no such help when it comes to choosing nicknames. Some schools, though, are resourceful. Inspired by the fact that its men's teams are the Trojans, Indiana's Taylor University calls its women the Trojanes while members of the women's track team at Louisiana State, whose male athletes are the Fighting Tigers, are known as the Ben-Gals. The other day the Ben-Gals ran against Georgia, whose women are the Bulldog Babes.