From the start Olympic organizers and civic officials in Los Angeles have sought to allay fears that summer heat and smog will combine to damage the performances of athletes in the '84 L.A. Games. Now, in hopes of guaranteeing that nothing of the sort will happen, Tom Heinsheimer, the chairman of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the public agency that deals with air pollution in the L.A. area, has called on residents and businesses to take voluntary antipollution measures before and during the Games, including increased car pooling and reduction of refinery production. Heinsheimer hastens to add that unless there are unusual weather conditions, "We expect to put on an Olympics that will be in no way affected by smog."
In support of that prediction, Heinsheimer invokes smog measurements taken for the past five years at the monitoring stations nearest each of the 10 outdoor Olympic sites during periods corresponding to the '84 Olympic dates. Heinsheimer's data indicate that first-stage smog alerts, which are called when ozone levels exceed an average of 0.20 parts per million for at least one hour—under federal standards the maximum acceptable ozone level is 0.12 parts per million—occurred frequently at only three of the 10 sites, East Los Angeles College (field hockey), the Rose Bowl (soccer) and Santa Anita (equestrian events). Most of these first-stage episodes, he points out, were in the afternoon, which presumably means that morning and evening events would be less severely affected by smog. In Heinsheimer's view, the fact that all soccer games in the Rose Bowl are to be played at 6 p.m. or later greatly reduces the chances of ill effects.
Another official of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, deputy executive officer James N. Birakos, offers comforting assurances concerning apprehensions that Olympic marathoners, in particular, might suffer from oppressive smog and heat. In so doing Birakos makes a statement that, coming from an Angeleno, is truly remarkable. The statement amounts to a testimonial to L.A.'s fiercest intrastate civic rival. Pointing out that the starting times for the Olympic marathons—8 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 5 for the women's and 5:25 p.m. the following Sunday for the men's—are scheduled during periods of traditionally low smog and that the L.A. course hugs the Pacific much of the way, Birakos says, unflinchingly, "In that part of town, the quality of air, even in the summertime, is comparable to what they have in San Francisco."
There were a couple of interesting juxtapositions in the newspapers last week. One was to be found in USA Today, which ran two news photographs of California Angel Second Baseman Bobby Grich furiously duking it out with Texas Ranger base runner Wayne Tolleson after the two collided on an attempted pickoff of Tolleson. The photos ran on the same page as a canned feature in which a grinning Grich was pictured with his list of big-league players with "the best sense of humor." The five players deemed most amusing by Grich were Pat Dobson, Tony Muser, Terry Humphrey, Roger Freed and Dave Boswell. Tolleson didn't make Grich's list and now, one supposes, never will.
Then there was the advertisement that the National Hockey League placed in The Wall Street Journal seeking buyers for the St. Louis Blues, a franchise whose status has been in limbo ever since its owner, the Ralston Purina Company, more or less dumped the team in the lap of the NHL last month. Ralston Purina did so after its effort to sell the Blues to a group that would have moved them to Saskatoon, Sask. was rebuffed by the league. The ad identified the contracts of the Blues' active players as the club's chief assets, and it seemed somehow appropriate that the NHL's notice ran in one of the Journal's editions next to an ad offering for sale another troubled business dealing in beef: a bankrupt meat-processing plant in Coshocton, Ohio.
The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the home of the Minnesota Twins, is installing a new air-conditioning system, and Calvin Griffith, the team's tight-fisted owner, is commemorating the event in a most uncharacteristic fashion. At a press conference Griffith grandly announced, "On the night we turn on the air conditioning, we're going to hold a drawing for a free air-conditioning system." A stricken expression then flashed on his face, and he urgently added, "That's for a house...not a hotel or anything like that."