COVER

THE TONCERNS BEYOND CALGARY

JOHN HOWSE February 22 1988
COVER

THE TONCERNS BEYOND CALGARY

JOHN HOWSE February 22 1988

THE TONCERNS BEYOND CALGARY

COVER

Even the august International Olympic Committee (IOC) reflected the distinctly western flavor of the 1988 Winter Olympics at its pre-Games meet-

ings in Calgary last week. The committee, which orchestrates the global Olympic movement, gave its 91 members goldplated identity badges depicting a horse’s head hitched to the IOC’s five-ring Olympic symbol. And IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch cast the organization’s usually rigid protocol to the wind when he first donned a Calgary trademark white Stetson hat, then skimmed it cowboystyle over the heads of his surprised guests at a sumptuous dinner reception in the Palliser Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom. Indeed, obviously enjoying himself and pleased with the facilities and organization for the Games, the 67-year-old Spanish former diplomat declared, “These will be the best-ever Games.”

Conflicts: But Samaranch made it clear in his opening address to the 93rd session of the IOC in Calgary last week, that while the 1988 Winter Games were virtually problem-free, the same is not true for the Olympic movement itself. Samaranch sternly criticized member

nations that boycott Olympic Games and athletes who use drugs. Said the IOC president: “The only victims of political conflicts in which sport is used as a weapon are the athletes.” Added Samaranch: “Doping is alien to our philosophy, to our rules of conduct. We shall never tolerate it.”

Sabotaged: On the surface, the Olympic movement appears to be thriving. An all-time high of 57 nations are competing in Calgary this week. And at next September’s Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, a record 161 of the 167 invited nations have said that they will compete. Three nations—North Korea, Cuba and Ethiopia—are boycotting the Games over the dispute between North and South Korea about the North’s role in the Games. Of the other nonparticipants, Nicaragua is preoccupied with the contra rebels and economic woes, and Albania and Seychelles did not respond to the invitation. But the inability of North and South Korea to agree on a joint role in the Summer Games could undermine prospects for a trouble-free event.

North Korean officials offered to meet with representatives of South Korea on Feb. 19 in the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries in a last-ditch effort to decide whether or not North Korea would have any role in the Games.

But so far South Korea has refused, insisting that the North apologize for its alleged role in the November, 1987, bombing of a domestic airliner. Said Samaranch: “Time is against us, but we are keeping the road open.” North Korea earlier was offered the opportunity to host five sporting competitions, including a cycling road race, archery, table tennis, women’s volleyball and several soccer games. “We would like to take part, to make the Games a symbol of unity in Korea,” Chang Ung, secretary general of North Korea’s Olympic Committee, told Maclean’s after the IOC congress wound up last week. But any agreement, he said, must link the Olympic issues to the need to reduce armed forces on both sides of the border. As well, said Chang, South Korea would have to stop its “slandering” about the sabotaged airliner.

Concern: At week’s end, it appeared unlikely that those conditions would be met. After the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee presented its Games update to the IOC in Calgary, the body’s president,

Park Seh-Jik, said: “The bombing incident triggered our concern for Games security. It woke us up.” And Roh Jae-Won, South Korea’s ambassador to Canada, who joined the committee delegation in Calgary, said: “I expect North Korea will be trying to continue to cast a pall over the Games. We are doing our best to forestall any act by North Korea.” That drew a rebuke from Samaranch, who said: “I don’t know why the ambassador was even there. It was not his place.” The IOC president has requested a meeting with Soviet leader Mikail Gorbachev to help resolve the Korean impasse.

But the IOC reserved its strongest language for illicit drug users and traffickers. Prince Alexandre de Mérode, head of the IOC Medical Commission, forecast heavier penalties for anyone associated with trafficking banned drugs. “I don’t believe in life sanctions for youth but we have to be severe with trafficking,” he said. One key to more effective control of illicit substances, said the prince, is agreement with international sports federations and the national Olympic committees to control use of drugs during training in the years between the Olympic events and to impose uniform sanctions on such use. As well, the IOC intends to experiment during the Calgary Games with tests designed to detect

blood packing, a procedure that involves removing blood from an athlete and reinjecting it prior to a competition to increase blood oxygen levels. Currently, there is no sure way of detecting packing.

Lobbying: Despite the pressing problems facing the IOC, the committee did attend to other business last week. British Olympic Association president and 1976 Olympics competitor Princess Anne was unanimously confirmed as a member. And the IOC considered bids from five cities eager to host the 1994 Winter Olympics, which will be held two years ahead of the traditional schedule to establish a new Winter Olympics quadrennial timetable. Starting in 1994, Summer and Winter Games will not be held in the same year. On its new cycle, the 1994 Winter Games will be followed by the 1996 Summer Games. Toronto and Athens have already geared up to bid for those Summer Games. Albertville, France, and Barcelona, Spain, will host the 1992 Winter and Summer Games respectively.

The winning bid for the 1994 Winter Olympics will be announced at the IOC

Congress on Sept. 15 prior to the Seoul Games. Despite an IOC ruling last year that prohibits competing cities from throwing elaborate parties and buying IOC members expensive gifts — as occurred in Calgary’s successful campaign in 1981 —intense lobbying was under way behind the scenes in Calgary hotel suites to sway IOC votes. Organizing committees of all five cities— Anchorage, Alaska, Lausanne, Swit-

zerland, Lillehammer, Norway, Ostersund, Sweden, and Sofia, Bulgaria—plan to garner votes through all-expenses-paid visits for IOC members to their sites. Calgary Mayor Ralph Klein last week had advice for the five hopefuls. “First, you have to have the support of the local population. The way to get people on side is to say the Games won’t cost you that much. These Games will cost Calgarians about a beer and one-half annually on their tax roll.” Excitement: Still, world politics play a major role in all IOC decisions. Anchorage’s bid already received a setback following a policy decision by the U.S. immigration department to refuse to admit a Chilean marksman for last year’s Pan-American Games in Indianapolis. The athlete was suspected of being a member of a Chilean government death squad. And earlier this month the department refused entry to a North Korean skater for the U.S. championships be-

cause the two nations do not have formal diplomatic relations. “It will be a factor, ” said Richard Pound, one of Canada’s two IOC members, referring to the Pan-Am incident. “The U.S. has always been one of the most difficult countries when it comes to access. Maybe it goes along with being a superpower.” Bill Pratt, president of the Calgary Games organizing committee, offers a theory on the 1994 bids. Said Pratt: “If the Soviet Union goes to Seoul, it’s Sofia.” If Pratt’s theory holds true, the 6,000-year-old settlement in the foothills of the Vitosha Mountains will play host to the world.

But last week the excitement was about Calgary, not Sofia. After the gala opening ceremonies at McMahon Stadium and city wide festivities, increasingly people agreed with Samaranch’s view: “Up to now, Calgary is number 1.” As the Games began, it was clear that Albertville—and the city that wins the right to host the 1994 Winter Games—will have a hard act to follow.

JOHN HOWSE in Calgary