COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — While North Korea is believed to have until Jan. 17 to decide whether to accept a proposal by International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch to play host to five 1988 Summer Olympic events, the president of the international archery federation said his sport must have an immediate answer.
"The time is now, a week from now," Spain's Francesco Gnecchi-Ruscone said at the General Assn. of International Sports Federations' (GAISF) annual meeting here.
"I have written a letter to President Samaranch saying (the archery federation) will stand by its word (to move to North Korea), but that cannot be maintained indefinitely.
"I don't want to make his already difficult job any more difficult, but he knows we can't organize an Olympic-caliber event in six months."
In an effort to persuade North Korea to participate in the Summer Olympics, which were awarded to Seoul, South Korea, and lessen the chances of a second consecutive Soviet Bloc boycott, Samaranch last July offered archery, table tennis, women's volleyball, a 100-kilometer cycling road race and a portion of the soccer tournament to North Korea.
South Korea has agreed to relinquish those events, but there has been no answer from North Korea. Samaranch has not placed a deadline on the North Koreans, but Kim Un Yong, an IOC member from South Korea, said here that Jan. 17 is a "very important date." That is six months before the Opening Ceremony in Seoul and also the deadline for nations to decide whether to attend the Olympics.
Officials from four of the five sports involved in the proposal were represented here. Only Gnecchi-Ruscone said his federation might not be able to wait for an answer until Jan. 17. But all said they prefer their sports remain in Seoul.
"If the IOC wants to help make this a successful volleyball competition in the Olympics, it would be better to have it in the South," said Tunisia's Chadly Zouiten, secretary general of the international volleyball federation.
"It would be a guaranteed success if both (men's and women's) were held in the South. The South is ready right now, has been ready for two years.
"But North Korea is not very active in volleyball. They don't have the feeling for the sport that organizers will have to have. They will be coming into it cold.
"It will be very hard for our federation to make it a success. But we will do everything we can to make sure the Olympic Games are organized like they're supposed to be. If Mr. Samaranch wants volleyball to be moved, we will do it."
Tony Brooks, secretary general of the international table tennis federation, said he has no doubt the North Koreans are prepared for his sport after the success they had in organizing the 1979 world championships.
"But the longer it goes, the harder it will be for them to do it," he said. "We're operating under the assumption we're going to the South."
So is Luis Puig, president of the international cycling federation, who said he understands from press reports that North Korea is not prepared to organize the road race it has been offered.
"We have worked very happily for five years with South Korea," Gnecchi-Ruscone said. "We have trained 200 people to staff this event. We've tested the facilities and the people at the world championships in 1985 and at the Asian Games in 1986. We're perfectly happy with the arrangement in Seoul.
"I went to North Korea two years ago. At the time, they did not even have a facility for archery. We don't know if they have built a facility yet. They cannot wait until the frost is on the ground to start.
"Nevertheless, if South Korea and North Korea can reach an agreement soon, we will not stand in the way. We have a standing committee of officials who will go to North Korea and begin making preparations as soon as we get the word.
"They are all sitting on their suitcases, ready to go."
But Gnecchi-Ruscone said he is not optimistic an accommodation can be reached with North Korea. He failed when he went there two years ago in an attempt to convince North Korean archery officials they should participate in the world championships in Seoul.
"They are not an easy country to persuade," he said.