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Bill Bradley Pushes for a Permanent Site for the Olympic Games

October 27, 1985|United Press International

WASHINGTON — The massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by Arab terrorists during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich made a lasting impression on the only former Olympian in Congress.

In the 13 years since, Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., a member of the 1964 gold-medal winning basketball team, has been on something of a personal mission to rid the Games of politics. And the solution he has come up with, and has put before the Senate, is a measure urging the selection of a permanent site for the Olympics.

Similar legislation is pending before the House.

"One of the reasons politics has buffeted the Games is that the Games have moved around every fours years. Each four years, there is a whole set of political problems with the location. And the idea of locating permanently is that you would avoid that kind of potential conflict," said Bradley, also a former star with the New York Knicks and a member of the NBA Hall of Fame.

Bradley, although he does not specify it in his legislation, wants Greece as the site. Greece, in 776 B.C., was the birthplace of the Olympics, when Greek city/states gathered their top athletes to compete in a variety of athletic events in the ancient city of Olympia.

"Locating it permanently allows the Games to have a certain historical continuity and a certain general continuity," Bradley added.

A separate permanent home would be designated for the Winter Games, he said.

However, critics of the move to establish a permanent Olympic enclave--including the International Olympic Committee itself--raise serious questions about Greece as a host nation and dispute whether a permanent site would indeed insulate the Games from politics.

Bradley, as a forward out of Princeton with a deadly accurate jump shot, got a first hand taste of politics' intrusion into the Olympics late one evening during the 1964 Tokyo Games.

"I was awakened one night," Bradley recalled, "and there were a lot of people leaving the dormitory next door. I found out the next day it was the North Koreans--they were pulling out of the Olympics.

"I wasn't thinking about solutions then," he added. "I was too busy thinking about beating the Russians and getting a gold medal. I began thinking about it in 1972 after Munich."

Arab guerrillas broke into the Israeli dormitory at the Olympic Village in Munich on Sept. 5, 1972, murdering several Israeli athletes. The terrorists took hostages to Furstenfeldbruk Airport, where West German police opened fire on them. In addition to the 11 slain Israeli athletes, five guerrillas and one West German policeman died.

Bradley cited both the United States' boycott of the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow and the Soviet Union's boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Games as instances of problems that would be defused with a permanent enclave.

"Had the Olympics been in Greece instead of Moscow, the United States would not have boycotted the Olympic Games after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In 1984, if the Olympics Games had been in Greece instead of Los Angeles, the Soviets would have participated in the Games," he said.

"The site in both of these cases was directly related to the reason the Games were boycotted," he contended.

A similar measure from Bradley was approved in the Senate last year in the form of one of dozens of amendments to a defense appropriation bill. However, it died in the House-Senate conference committee.

His current resolution, which would express the Senate's view and not carry the strength of law, is in the Senate Commerce Committee. The House measure, sponsored by Rep. Stan Parris, R-Va., is referred to a subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

A report from the Congressional Research Service questions whether a permanent site will do anything toward de-politicizing the Games.

"Although a permanent site would greatly reduce planning and construction costs over the long run, there is no guarantee that any site, whether it be in Greece or elsewhere, could be properly insulated, both legally and physically, from internal and external political pressures," the report stated.

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