LA LECHERE, France -- The former Soviet sports machine -- diminished and sputtering -- may be demolished by 1993.
International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch announced yesterday that the states of the former Soviet Union would "probably" compete under their own flags beginning next year.
"All athletes from the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] must compete under the same flag until the end of the year," Samaranch said in a news conference on the eve of the opening of the 1992 Winter Olympics.
The remnants of the Soviet machine will compete in Albertville and the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, as part of the Unified Team and will march behind the five-ringed Olympic flag.
But starting in 1993, the CIS national Olympic committees "will each have their own independent teams," Samaranch said.
In a wide-ranging news conference, Samaranch also stated:
* That blood testing for athletes will not be introduced in Albertville.
* That some countries in the Olympic movement might not be allowed to send an athlete to future Games if the athlete isn't considered world class. Traditionally, every country gets to send at least one athlete.
* That South Africa will gain admittance to the Barcelona Games. Earlier in the week, he apparently struck a deal with the IAAF, the international track federation. The group had threatened not to formalize ties with South Africa's governing body in track.
You want speed or ratings?
The speed skaters want to race at night. But the television producers want a daytime event.
Guess who won that argument?
Gerd Zimmermann, chairman of the International Skating Union technical commission, confirmed tomorrow's opening women's 3,000-meter race and Monday's women's 500 meters would start at 4 p.m. local time.
"With millions of people glued to their televisions we cannot delay the race unless the ice really is impossible," Zimmermann told Reuters in response to a Dutch call to move the races back after sunset.
The Olympic speed skating oval, which lies half in the sun and half in the shade, is soft and slushy during the day.
The Dutch, with support from the U.S. team, petitioned for the delay.
German Olympic officials said they were investigating reports that a star bobsledder spied on his former East German teammates for the Stasi secret police.
A German newspaper identified the alleged informer as Harald Czudaj, a member of the four-man bobsled team that won at the European Championships last week and is considered a contender for a medal.
Three-time world men's figure skating champion Kurt Browning of Canada showed up in Albertville yesterday and pronounced himself fit to win a gold medal.
So did Todd Eldredge, the two-time U.S. champion who missed last month's nationals but was given a spot in the Olympics.
"My back feels fine," Eldredge said. "As far as I'm concerned, I'm 99 percent."
Ryan Heckman, a 17-year-old from Winter Park, Colo., was introduced to royalty yesterday.
And he didn't know it.
He met Princess Anne of Great Britain and Prince Albert of Monaco.
"After they shook hands, they introduced themselves to me," Heckman said. "It's something my mom would really be excited about."