A MERE AMUSEMENT?
Those who favor a boycott of the Moscow Olympics obviously believe that sports are important—a potent weapon with which to punish the Soviet Union. Yet, in arguing that the Summer Games are expendable, some of those same people also seem to imply, contradictorily, that sports are trivial, dwarfed by comparison with political and economic concerns. For example, Political Columnist George F. Will has sought to justify his advocacy of a boycott by dismissing the Olympics as "a mere amusement."
Inconsistency on the importance of sports—or at least the importance of athletes—is also evident in the reaction to Muhammad Ali's diplomatic foray into Africa. If President Carter erred in sending Ali to Africa to push for an Olympic boycott, it was because Ali was lamentably ill-informed on Afro-American relations, certainly not because he is an inconsequential personage. Ali was in India before leaving for Africa and in what amounted to acknowledgment of his stature, Soviet officials there tried to dissuade the ex-champ from making the trip. Subsequently, Ali was hugged and kissed by African admirers, the sort of reception not ordinarily afforded, shall we say, Kurt Waldheim. Nevertheless, many people, reportedly including Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere—who refused to meet Ali—betrayed at least a touch of condescension by complaining that Carter had entrusted the mission to a mere boxer.
Efforts to demean them notwithstanding, sports are not only important but elemental and indispensable. Paradoxically, though, they shouldn't be taken too seriously. Which is why it would be welcome to see the Olympic movement 1) survive its present crisis, and 2) emerge a bit less grandiose and self-important.
A funny thing happened to a couple of the predictions that were supposed to appear in last week's Winter Olympic preview. Somewhere between SI's editorial offices and the printers, gremlins infiltrated the mechanical process, with the result that the bobsled selections were omitted, while those for women's crosscountry skiing were run twice. Barring the appearance of those same gremlins on Lake Placid's fast Mount Van Hoevenberg course, these should be the bobsled medalists:
GERMESHAUSEN-GERHARDT East Germany
EAST GERMANY I
EAST GERMANY II
At 11:30 a.m. Saturday a truck pulled up to the two-story Lake Placid house occupied by West Germany's Olympic committee and unloaded 100 cases of Grenzquell, one of that country's most venerable Pilsners. The beer was a gift to the 97 West German athletes competing in the Winter Olympics. It had been flown by the U.S. distributor, Olympia Brewing Company, from Seattle to New York City, then put aboard the truck for the 300-mile trip to Lake Placid. A West German official, Walter Roth, watched the valuable cargo being unloaded and said, "Now the Olympics may begin."
THE ODD COUPLE