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"When we suggest to Russian officials that they aren't complying with the rules, they merely point to American college athletics and laugh," one British official said. "Your athletic scholarships are a far more pernicious evil than Russia's state amateurs."
However, the facts are that the Soviet socialist concept of athletics, while generally not incompatible with worldwide standards of good sportsmanship, is completely at odds with the IOC rules.
Russian sports are organized on the principle that every citizen is entitled to an opportunity to play games. This is the same principle which inspired Baron de Coubertin to revive the Olympic Games. In practice, the essential difference between Soviet and Western sports is that the Soviet government openly and avowedly helps talented sportsmen to develop their potentials by providing them with the best available facilities, all the free time necessary to perfect themselves, and sufficient material incentives to encourage them to do so.
"Is it not just and fair," one Communist sports official has argued, "to reward those who at the cost of strenuous effort have reached the summit? Is it not fair to reward those who by their splendid example lead the masses along the road to perfection?" Except for the pompous Marxian flavor of the rhetoric, it is not hard to imagine any athlete anywhere subscribing to this view.
I SAW NOTHING
In 1954 Brundage went to Russia, where he was treated as a very important person indeed. Brundage was deeply impressed by the national enthusiasm for physical fitness and the businesslike organization of sports. "We can learn much from them," he told reporters on his return, and some of these reporters recalled uneasily that Brundage had shown the same enthusiasm for a fitness-conscious nation on returning from Nazi Germany in 1936. Russian sports officials had told Brundage that they "believe in and respect the Olympic rules and have no professional athletes in the U.S.S.R.," that they have no special training camps, give no special inducements, cash prizes or other material awards to their athletes.
But the irrefutable fact is that the statements are not true. The Soviet Union neither believes in nor respects the Olympic rules, any more than do the majority of athletes and sports officials in the rest of the world. Let me cite a few examples based on both personal experience and the official Soviet press:
Last winter, when a U.S. amateur hockey team from Brockton, Mass. was taking one of the worst drubbings of its life from a not-so-amateur Soviet team, I was chatting with a star Soviet hockey player underneath the stadium. He was a lieutenant in the Soviet army and told me that two or three times a week he had to report to the Defense Ministry for a couple of hours duty. Were he an enlisted man, he added, he would not have to report at all. The rest of the time during the hockey season he is completely free to train and practice with his team. He has a small apartment in Moscow for himself, his wife and his small daughter. Each year he gets a vacation at a fashionable Black Sea resort. He owns a medium-priced car.
Soviet law and custom requires every man to work six or seven hours a day, not a week, as the lieutenant does. Soviet lieutenants are lucky if they have a room in a multiroom apartment. While a few thousand cars are privately owned in Moscow, they do not belong to junior Soviet army officers. Obviously, Soviet athletes do receive special inducements and material rewards.