When Juan Antonio Samaranch of Spain became the International Olympic Committee's president during the 1980 Summer Olympics at Moscow, no one was certain whether congratulations or condolences were in order.
Terrorism in 1972 had turned Olympic villages into armed encampments; the Montreal Games in 1976 lost $1 billion for the federal, provincial and city governments; the United States and other countries were boycotting the Moscow Games; and the only city that bid for the 1984 Summer Olympics, Los Angeles, would not agree to cover debts from the Games if they occurred there.
Fifteen years into Samaranch's reign, however, the Olympic movement is stronger than ever. At least 10 cities from five continents have indicated they will bid for the 2004 Summer Olympics; multinational companies spend $20 million to become sponsors; the inclusion of professionals has created more worldwide interest; and, within the last four months, NBC has agreed to pay the IOC $3.57 billion for U.S. television rights to the five Olympic Games between 2000 and 2008.
For his successes, Samaranch, 75, is likely to be rewarded with a fourth term in 1997. He has not said that he will be a candidate, but that no doubt was his intention when he championed the change last year in the mandatory retirement age from 75 to 80.
Although he has critics who believe he has led the Olympics too far down the commercial path, few would argue that he does not deserve another term. No one has had more positive impact on the IOC since its founder, Baron Pierre de Coubertin.
Quote of the Week: Regarding the $1.27 billion NBC agreed to pay in August for Olympic Games in 2000 and 2002 and the additional $2.3 billion it committed last week for subsequent Games through 2008, the network's sports president, Dick Ebersol said: "We've carved out a love affair with the IOC. In August, we got engaged. Now it seemed reasonable to get married and open up a joint checking account."
Those U.S. Olympic Committee members who believe that Gen. George Miller did not distinguish himself as the committee's executive director for three years might have to revise their opinions. It was during his tenure that the USOC assured its financial security through the first decade of the next century.
In 1986, he and the committee's then director of development, John Krimsky Jr., entered into an agreement with the IOC that gave the USOC 10% of U.S. television rights fees for the Olympic Games. As a result, beginning with the 1992 Winter Games, the USOC by the summer of 2008 will have realized at least $530.5 million from that deal.
We say at least because Krimsky, now the USOC's deputy secretary general, is seeking a greater share from the IOC starting with the 2004 Summer Olympics.
"We have made those noises," he said last week. "The IOC has not said no. They certainly haven't said yes."
Track and field promoter Al Franken has called a news conference for Wednesday. He would not reveal the reason, but it does not seem likely that he would schedule a news conference unless he has news.
Look for him to announce that the 37th annual indoor meet will be held as scheduled on Feb. 24 at the Sports Arena. It was doubtful when Sunkist dropped out last year after 26 years as the title sponsor.
Although Casey FitzRandolph is a rookie on the U.S. speedskating team, he did not come from nowhere to win the 1,000 meters at a recent World Cup event at Oslo. He had the second-fastest time the week before in the Netherlands but did not earn a medal because he was skating in Group 2 for supposed world-class wannabes.
On his improvement, heavyweight boxer Lance Whitaker of Granada Hills said, "I started out at as a six and now I'm at an eight or 8 1/2."
His trainer, Tommy Brooks, scoffs. "He started out as a minus-zero and now he's a five."
Atlanta city officials are studying ways to ensure foreign visitors will be treated with the proper protocol next summer. Lessons include the right way to say hello, shake hands, exchange business cards, give directions and pose for pictures with people from different countries and cultures.
Atlantans are also being advised to go easy on regional expressions, including "y'all," that foreigners will not find in their translation dictionaries.
Monica Seles did not play in the Fed Cup for the United States because of injuries, but she remains eligible for the Olympics because she made herself available for the competition in Spain. Seles said she is looking forward to Atlanta because she wants to mingle with other elite women athletes such as Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Picabo Street.
Uh, Street, a downhill skier, is likely to be a no-show unless Atlanta experiences a record-breaking cold snap next summer.
The U.S. women's softball team finished 13-0 on its recent tour of Australia. One of the victims was Australian pitcher Tanya Harding, who pitched UCLA to the NCAA championship last spring. She lost, 3-0, to the Americans.
So much for the myth that Kenyans are adept at distance races because they run so many miles to school each day.
Wilson Kipketer, the world 800-meter champion who now competes for Denmark, said: "The farmhouse was right next to the school. I could walk there, nice and slowly."