Amid speculation that the United States might attack Iraq soon, international Olympic officials Wednesday repeated appeals for nations to avoid military confrontation during the Nagano Games, which begin this weekend.
While stressing that they were not attempting to influence U.S. foreign policy, the officials said they hoped that the United States and other countries that have signed a United Nations resolution pledging peace during the Winter and Summer Olympics would adhere to their pledges. The resolution, signed by 178 countries, is generally known as the Olympic truce.
“The IOC has no comment to make regarding the way the United States of America makes its decisions,” International Olympic Committee director general Francois Carrard said in an interview Tuesday. “We simply hope that, like all signatories to the Olympic truce, they will follow it.”
Anita DeFrantz of the United States, the first woman elected as a vice president of the IOC, said she had been working back channels to remind the White House that it has resolved to comply with the Olympic truce.
“I just wanted to make sure they know about it; they do,” DeFrantz said in an interview. “I’m confident that it will play some part, maybe a small part, in the decision-making process.”
But DeFrantz, a former Olympic rower, also acknowledged that military conflicts have occurred during past Olympic Games. The Bosnian conflict, for example, continued during the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, even after IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch had visited Sarajevo before the Games and urged a truce.
Conflict has followed the Olympic movement. The 1968 Mexico City Games were preceded by student uprisings that led to demonstrations and deaths. Arab terrorists penetrated the security of the Olympic village in Munich in 1972 that took the lives of Israeli Olympians. The United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and Soviet-bloc countries retaliated with a boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
“It’s sad if it doesn’t work,” DeFrantz said of the Olympic truce, “but it doesn’t mean we have to stop trying. The Games will continue and the athletes and spectators will understand that the world can be at peace.” Samaranch, who has expanded the Olympic program during his presidency, told The Associated Press, “We can only pray” that the truce will be observed during the Games.
In Washington on Tuesday, the State Department said that it respected Olympic appeals for peace. But it refused to guarantee that the United States would not launch an attack during the 16-day run of the Nagano Games over Iraq’s refusal to allow complete access to U.N. weapons inspectors. Iraq is not scheduled to have any athletes competing in Nagano.