THE JOYLESS GAMES
When President Carter proposed his Olympic boycott on Jan. 20, he said that the U.S. was prepared, if necessary, to stand alone in passing up the 1980 Summer Games. But Carter also said he would try to enlist "as many nations as possible" in the boycott movement, in hopes of persuading the International Olympic Committee to move, postpone or cancel the Games. At last week's deadline for submitting entries to Moscow, the Olympic committees of West Germany, Japan, Canada and some 50 other countries had declared their intention to join the U.S. in staying away from Moscow. But the committees of 70-odd other countries had announced plans to compete in Moscow, including, to the White House's keen disappointment, those of Britain, France, Australia and the Netherlands. Barring dramatic new developments, the Olympics appear destined to take place in Moscow on schedule and at a generally high level of competition.
The apparent failure of his campaign to move, postpone or cancel the Olympics is a partial defeat for Carter—as is the quiet death of his scheme for an alternative games. And his boycott movement has set an unfortunate precedent that will make it easier for others to place political roadblocks in the path of future international sports events. But none of this should obscure the fact that the provocation for Carter's action was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which the United Nations General Assembly condemned in January by a vote of 104 to 18. Neither should it hide an unsettling truth about the IOC: that it was prepared to stage the 1980 Olympics at virtually any cost. The Games must go on, even in a moral vacuum.
There is also reason to be disturbed by the expediency of some of the national Olympic committees that voted to go to Moscow. Advancing the familiar argument that sports should be kept forever separate from politics, committees in at least 10 countries went so far as to defy the entreaties of their governments to join the boycott. One of those countries was Great Britain, where Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher last week chastised Moscow-bound national Olympic officials by asking, "Would they still believe, were we invaded by Russia, that the athletes of France or anywhere else should just say, 'That's nothing to do with us. We're only interested in sport'?"
The athletes who compete in Moscow run the risk of being remembered, everlastingly, as indeed having been interested only in sport. To avoid such a stigma, some of them may conceivably try to use the Olympics as a forum for publicly protesting the Afghanistan invasion, a course of action widely proposed in recent weeks as an alternative to a boycott. Such demonstrations would scarcely endear the athletes to their Soviet hosts, who, besides subjugating the Afghans, have been busily clearing Moscow of dissidents in preparation for the Olympics. Either way, athletes' protests or no, this figures to be a less than joyful Olympics. Which is another way of saying that, in spite of everything, the boycott's impact will be felt.
ABOARD THE KRYPTONITE EXPRESS
It isn't often somebody succeeds in silencing Muhammad Ali, but a quick-witted airline stewardess accomplished just that during this exchange at the start of a recent flight from Washington, D.C. to New York:
Stewardess: Mr. Ali, please fasten your seat belt.
Ali: Superman don't need no seat belt.
Stewardess: Superman don't need no plane, either.