SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
October 03, 1983
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October 03, 1983


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In early 1980, SI endorsed as "the right course" President Jimmy Carter's threat—one that the U.S. ultimately carried out in concert with 61 other countries—to boycott that year's Summer Olympics in Moscow unless the Soviet Union withdrew its troops from Afghanistan. Today, in the aftermath of the U.S.S.R.'s shooting down of a Korean airliner on Aug. 31, we believe that any action by the Reagan Administration to block the U.S.S.R. from participating in the '84 Games in Los Angeles, as urged in some quarters, would be the wrong course. Whatever may have been the virtues of the 1980 boycott—and now they must be regarded as having been dubious at best—present circumstances are dramatically different from those in '80:

?Whatever it may say about the character of the Soviet regime, the downing of the Korean plane, as horrific as it was, apparently wasn't, as in the case of Soviet aggression in Afghanistan, the result of a considered policy on the part of the Kremlin that the U.S. could hope to reverse with sports-related sanctions.

?Whereas Carter felt the need to further focus world attention on the situation in Afghanistan, full attention has already been riveted on the Korean airliner tragedy—and could actually be diverted by a controversial "lockout" of Soviet athletes.

?Although the '80 boycott was a flop in one sense—Soviet troops are still in Afghanistan—it did succeed in dampening the spirit of an Olympics that, Carter felt, the Soviet regime was hoping to use to "legitimatize" itself in the eyes of the world. There would be no similar advantage to be gained in barring the Soviets from L.A.

Disclaiming any interest in dragging the Olympics into the Korean-plane case, a White House spokesman last week told SI that "the Administration feels that sports should rise above politics." Alas, international sport is almost always intertwined with politics. The real point to be made is that barring the Soviets from L.A. would be bad politics. Such an action would violate commitments to the International Olympic Committee by the city of Los Angeles, the L.A. Olympic Organizing Committee and Presidents Carter and Reagan that athletes of all countries would be welcome to compete in L.A. The IOC would likely respond to a lockout of Soviet athletes by moving or calling off the Games. The U.S. would thus bear the onus of having wrecked a second straight Olympics.

Also worrisome is the possibility that Moscow might stay away from L.A. of its own volition—and influence its socialist-bloc allies to do the same. On the heels of the cancellation by seven U.S. universities of basketball games they were to have played against the Soviet national team next month (SCORECARD, Sept. 26), the U.S.S.R. last week called off a December tour of the U.S. by its national hockey team because of "serious fears" for its athletes' safety. It's not difficult to imagine the U.S.S.R. bowing out of L.A. for the same reason.

The hope is that Soviet athletes will compete in Los Angeles. The Soviets had warned well before the latest heightening of world tensions that they might stay away from L.A., but there had been signs that they actually intended to be there—if for no other reason than that they could expect to clean up in the competition. In August the Soviets agreed to pay $3 million for domestic TV rights to the Games, and they have also signed a joint communiqu� with the LAOOC pledging to strengthen the Olympic movement and promote peaceful ideals through sport. The current state of U.S.-Soviet relations makes the pursuit of those goals seem more worthwhile than ever—and, in this case anyway, good politics as well.

Sausalito South Bar & Grill in Manhattan Beach, Calif. gives its patrons a special treat during Monday night NFL telecasts. When his team isn't one of the Monday contestants, Los Angeles Raider Defensive End Lyle Alzado is regularly on hand at Sausalito South to comment on the game and provide an insider's view of pro football. Here's one of Alzado's recent insights: "Let me tell you how the Raider defense works.... We're a very tight and intense unit. Like, for instance, [Linebacker] Matt Millen is probably our quietest player off the field, but the night before a game, he gets so wound up that he jumps off the television set in his hotel room into his bed because he thinks that will bring him good luck."


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