A TRIUMPH FOR SPORT
The apostles of gloom were out in full force after the Winter Olympics ended. Frustrated perhaps by the lack of bitter international disputes at Cortina, they pointed an ominous finger instead at the remarkable success of Soviet athletes in the Games and interpreted same as a sure sign of the coming collapse of Western democracy, or at the very least the absolute surrender of amateur sport to Communist strong-arm tactics.
Perhaps it is starry-eyed to put forth a completely opposite interpretation: that the influence of the ideals of Western democracy and amateur sport are changing the Soviet Union and may yet be a significant factor in the inevitable destruction of the brutal, ruthless Communism we know today.
Communists bend the truth to their needs, yet in the Olympic Games, Soviet athletes accepted the harsh truth of defeat as readily as they did the sweet truth of victory. Communists see nothing but evil in Western democracy, yet in the Olympics Soviet praise of Western athletes was warm and sincere.
Communists place political significance on everything: Averell Harriman at the Baseball Writers' dinner in New York remembered Andrei Vishinsky's insisting some years ago that a Soviet-British soccer match had great political importance. Yet in a speech at Cortina just after the Games closed, Soviet Sports Minister Nikolai Romanov said—along with praise for his athletes and a proud boast that they'd do even better at Melbourne—that the Winter Games "helped to demonstrate that the friendship between East and West sportsmen and women which started in a big way at Helsinki has become even stronger. When you consider that there wasn't a single unpleasant incident through the Games—even in a sport as rough as ice hockey—then you can realize the value of these games.... Sport is above politics and is increasingly building up a deep and sincere bond between us all."
Sport above politics! Shades of Lenin and Stalin! Maybe Romanov didn't really mean what he said. Maybe his Communist tongue was in his Communist cheek. But he said it, and that alone was a remarkable triumph, if a small one, for the two-often-ridiculed ideals of fair play and sportsmanship that are the backbone not only of amateur sport but, in truth, of Western democracy itself.
START OF A MISSION
The National Parks, with facilities for 25 million visitors, had twice that many last year as nomadic Americans trooped the country over to see and live for a while in their heritage of primeval beauty. They saw the parks overcrowded and deteriorating (SI, June 13).
It was around a campfire in 1870 that the decision to set up the first national park was made, and so, to launch the Department of Interior's Mission 66—a 10-year effort between now and 1966 to save and improve the parks—a simulated campfire was built in the department's restaurant in Washington a few nights ago, and 500 conservationists, Congressmen, other government officials and their wives sat down to dine around its glow. The usually bare walls were garlanded with fir branches. The guests sipped cider punch and dined on elk steaks and roast buffalo shipped in from Custer Park. It was a happy meal because, a week or so before, President Eisenhower had nodded approval to Mission 66.
The need for immediate and continuing action was outlined to the diners by Conrad L. Wirth, Director of the National Park Service. When the mission is completed, he said, "it is predicted that 80 million visitors will be descending upon these recreational areas and unless determined action is taken without delay to prepare for this influx, irreparable damage will be done to the priceless natural resources of our park system."