I read with interest your articles covering the Soviet Union's boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics (Doleful Days for the Games, May 21). However, I was astonished to see that your writers consider the politicization of the Games to be a recent phenomenon. Since 1896, the Games have featured national teams, the hoisting of flags, the playing of national anthems and unofficial medal counts to determine who "won." Although it may be argued that nationalism isn't politics per se, the modern state draws its strength from the nationalistic sentiments of its population. Politics has interfered high and low in the Games—from biased judging to the cultivation of Olympic athletes from early childhood to the "shamateurism" of some national teams to the use of the Games as a national pageant and as a showcase for tyrants. Politics and the Games are inseparable.
Should we have boycotted the Moscow Olympics? If one regards the Games purely as a sporting event, the answer is, of course, no. But how could we, with a clear conscience, have participated in a pageant designed to glorify a government that at that very moment was brutally conquering one of its neighbors? Should the Soviets boycott the Los Angeles Games? Again, from the perspective of sport, no. But from their standpoint, how could they come and help us celebrate what has foolishly been called "America's Olympics"?
Perhaps the Games can be reconstituted in some way that would eliminate nationalism, but then interest in the Games would evaporate. I love sports, but I also hate hypocrisy; for that reason, I hope the Olympics are dead.
Despite any rationalization to the contrary, the single most important reward that comes with winning an Olympic medal must be in knowing that, on a given day in a given athletic event, you are the very best (or second-best or third-best) in the entire world. How sad that many of the 1980 and, now, 1984 Olympic winners must forever be "marked" with asterisks denoting that not all of the world's best competitors were there.
WILLIAM J. YOUNG III
No one can deny that the Soviet boycott of the L.A. Games is a disappointment. Some of the world's best athletes will be missing. But the media and public must not let this absence of some of the competitors cause them to lose perspective. Whom a world-class athlete defeats is not as important as how close he or she comes to achieving perfection in his or her event. In preparation for L.A., the competitors and the public alike should be thinking, "Forget the Soviets, run for the records!" It's in the quest for the record that the ultimate competition lies.
I was saddened to see SI join in the communal whining over the Soviet decision to boycott the L.A. Olympics. If the aim of the Soviets was to upset the American Games in retaliation for 1980, then they must be laughing up their sleeves at the spectacle of LAOOC president Peter V. Ueberroth et al. bowing and scraping before the mighty U.S.S.R. Let's quit crying and get on with the Games!
CRAIG L. CAUGHMAN
RACE WALKING, TOO
In SCORECARD (May 14) you announced the inclusion of the women's 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs as exhibition events in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials to be held in Los Angeles from June 17 to 24. I'm happy to report the addition of another exhibition event to those trials: the women's 10,000-meter race walk. The June 23 race in the Coliseum will serve as the qualifier for the team of four that will represent us in any international competitions in the ensuing 12 months. This event has also been added to the next world championships in 1987 and to the 1985 European championships. With the support of The Athletics Congress and the IAAF, we, too, have our sights set on Seoul in '88.
TAC Race Walking Championships
Redwood City, Calif.
As a former classmate of Danny Sullivan's at the Kentucky Military Institute, I think I can shed some light on his tremendous ability to grip the race courses of the world (A Hunk Hits the Road, May 14). You see, as a graduating senior at KMI, I had the duty of commissioning a select few (three) underclassmen for what was known as "gravel gripper" status. These grippers had to be able to turn on a dime, weave through opponents like a snake and accelerate in a bullet-like fashion. We weren't race car drivers, however; rather, we were forwards on the school's soccer team. Of course, Danny was chosen to help carry on the gravel-gripper tradition.
It's of little surprise to us oldtime grippers that Danny retained his ability in the switch from soccer player to world-class race car driver. We always knew he had it.
GREGG J. FENDER
Sarah Pileggi's story on Ben Crenshaw ("This One Was for My Friends," May 14) was another SI masterpiece that should help golfers throughout the world to rejoice in Crenshaw's newfound peace with himself. After a cool drink to settle my emotions after reading the last section, I couldn't help but think of another golfer who also has had difficulty living up to her image.