U.S. board sets plans to eliminate Festival Minimal funding left for University Games

October 09, 1995|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- The board of directors of the United States Olympic Committee announced plans yesterday to eliminate its Olympic Festival and provide only bare-bones funding for sending teams to the World University Games.

But Dr. LeRoy Walker, president of the USOC, said that the cost-cutting measures will by no means reduce his organization's commitment to develop future Olympians through grass-roots programs.

"We all agree that cities [running the Olympic Festival] can't afford to do 37 sports," said Walker, who wouldn't rule out the possibility of a scaled-down version of the Festival returning in the future. "There is no money allocated at this moment, but the commitment to the principles of this idea exists."

The USOC will reallocate some of the $4.2 million used to run the Festival into "Home Team '96." That program, which is still in the planning stage, will be geared to increasing the number of medals the U.S. wins here at next summer's Olympic Games by providing Olympic athletes with lucrative performance bonuses.

The board of directors' decision to save an approximate $11 million also puts the future of the World University Games in jeopardy. The USOC said that the national governing bodies of each individual sport will have to take financial responsibility for sending its athletes to the biennial event.

The USOC will leave about $200,000 in its current budget to help pay for staff support for those federations still wishing to participate in the World University Games.

"Sports like basketball, they are going to go," said George Killian, president of the FIBA, the international basketball federation and vice-president of FISU, the organization that conducts the World University Games. "There are no ifs, ands and buts about it, because it [the World University Games] is the only thing we have left on the collegiate level. I'm sure that swimming, track and field and gymnastics will also be going [to participate]."

The Olympic Festival began in 1978, and its demise had been rumored for several months. It comes at a time when many athletes, especially in track and field as well as swimming, have voiced complaints about the USOC devoting too much time and money to developmental athletes rather than elite athletes training for the Olympics.

"It's disappointing to me. . . . If we keep taking away these kind of opportunities, somebody else will replace you as No. 1," said Killian. "That's something you've got to be careful about."

The USOC's board of directors also failed to vote on establishing a code of conduct for its Olympic athletes. Nor has it put in place a more stringent drug policy that will allow "knock at the door" random testing at any time. It is expected that both will be in place by next summer's Games.

"We have to have a very strong drug-testing program," said USOC executive director Dick Schultz. "I was shocked to find that the international community thinks our drug-testing program inadequate. We have to be the absolute best we can be."

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