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Even before the Soviet Union shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007 on Aug. 31 there had been concern about whether the U.S.S.R. and its allies would participate in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Although the Soviets had disavowed any intention of staying away from L.A. either to avenge the U.S.'s boycott of the '80 Games in Moscow or for political reasons, they had indicated that they would stay home if they considered security or other preparations for the Games inadequate. And they'd said they wouldn't announce whether they were attending the Games until next June 2, the last possible day for such decisions.
The furor over the death of the 269 people aboard Flight 007 has increased uncertainty about Soviet Olympic participation. Last week a seven-game tour of the U.S. scheduled for November by the Soviet national basketball team was canceled after all seven universities the Soviets were to play backed out to protest the downing of the Korean airliner. A six-game series set for December between the U.S. Olympic hockey squad and the Soviet national team was also put in jeopardy when some arena owners objected to the idea of playing host to athletes from the U.S.S.R. In response, Soviet officials notified L.A. Olympic organizers that "due to existing circumstances," they were dropping plans to send 17 athletes to a pre-Games regatta this week at the Olympic rowing and canoeing site in Ventura County. But at week's end not all sporting contacts with the Soviets had been scrapped; U.S. wrestlers still planned to compete in the world championships starting this week in Kiev, and a four-nation women's volleyball tournament involving the Soviets is still set for Long Beach, Calif. in mid-October.
The latest developments have left U.S.-Soviet athletic relations even more tangled than usual. It was confusing enough when the U.S. boycotted the '80 Games in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, while allowing U.S.S.R. athletes to compete at that year's Winter Games in Lake Placid. The message to the Soviets seemed to have been: "We'll compete in our country but not in yours." Now the message appears to be exactly the reverse: "We'll play on your turf, but please don't come over here." The emerging Russians-stay-home sentiment was underscored by a unanimous vote in the California legislature in favor of a resolution urging President Reagan to ban the U.S.S.R.'s athletes from competing in the L.A. Olympics. Several U.S. Congressmen also called for such a ban.
The fact that anti-Soviet maneuvering was again, as in 1980, concentrated heavily on sports greatly vexed F. Don Miller, executive director of the U.S. Olympic Committee, who asked, "Isn't there more to our foreign policy than amateur sports?" Although Miller's frustration was understandable, the truth is that snubbing the Soviets on the playing field isn't part of U.S. foreign policy, not yet anyway. Reagan has pledged in two letters to the International Olympic Committee that the U.S. would issue visas to '84 Olympians from all countries. While that promise doesn't cover pre-Olympic events, it's significant that it was the Amateur Basketball Association of the United States, and not the Federal Government, that canceled the Soviet basketball tour. Asked about the cancellation, a State Department spokesman told SI, "I think it reflects the feelings of the American people. We would have been surprised if they felt they could have gone on with sports as usual in this climate." But he added, "At this point I don't think it relates to the Olympics."
THE CORNHUSKERS' NON-CAMPAIGN
In quite a departure for a man in his line of work, Nebraska Sports Information Director Don Bryant has disclaimed any intention of mounting a big publicity campaign in behalf of his school's Heisman Trophy candidate. Running Back Mike Rozier. "We believe the guy has to win it on the field," Bryant says. "They [the media] are going to laugh at me if I start sending out the Mike Rozier doll." Hold it, Don. Isn't there a painting of Rozier on the cover of the Cornhuskers' 1983 media guide, and haven't writers been receiving huge posters of Rozier from Nebraska in the mail? Yes and yes. But Bryant points out that somebody has to be on the media guide cover—you can't very well leave it blank, can you?—and that the posters were actually mailed out not by Bryant but by the school's strength and conditioning coach, and that furthermore....
We bet there are some writers who would've preferred the doll.
SON OF THE GREAT KEEL CONTROVERSY
The America's Cup (page 30) isn't the only nautical event to have been enlivened this summer by a clandestine Australian keel. Much the same thing transpired at the World Rowing Championships, held recently in Duisburg, West Germany, when the Australians unpacked their eight-oared shell the day before the first heats. In a splendid send-up of the summer-long fuss in Newport over Australia II's keel, the Aussies had shrouded the shell's keel in a plastic bag. Picking up on the gag, the coxswain on the Canadian Eight later showed up in snorkel and mask, a spoof of his countryman who was caught in Newport trying to take underwater photographs of Australia II's mysterious keel.