Santa Monica to Host Opening of 15th World Games for Deaf

Times Staff Writer

The Russians aren't coming.

But it'.Ws apparently economic--not political--reasons that will keep them out of the Santa Monica/Los Angeles XV World Games for the Deaf. The games will take place July 10-20, mostly at Westside locations.

A spokesman for the games said that the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, East Germany and Czechoslovakia pulled out of this year's games after sending a last-minute cable to Jerald Jordan, president of the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf. They wired Jordan that they would be unable to send their national teams because of financial reasons, the spokesman said.

Just as in the 1984 Olympics, the withdrawal of Russia and other Eastern Bloc countries should make it easier for the United States to win more medals than any other national team. The United States has won the last three World Games for the Deaf, and the Soviet Union, winner in 1961 and 1969, was been runner-up to the United States in 1973, 1977 and 1981. And when the Soviets captured their two firsts, the Americans finished second.

The games, inaugurated in France in 1924, are under the auspices of the Comite International des Sports des Sourdes. The 1985 games are sponsored by the American Athletic Assn. of the Deaf.

Competition is patterned after the Olympics, but the games for the deaf do not includes as many sports. That is largely because the deaf population of the world is much smaller than the hearing population and the pool of athletes is correspondingly smaller. Badminton and table tennis, not official Olympic sports, are included in the games for the deaf.

Originally, the 15th games were to have included 13 athletic events, but the withdrawal of the Soviet Union and the three satellite nations led to cancellation of wrestling and the pole vault, triple jump and steeplechase in men's track and field because there are not enough athletes left to make these events competitive.

Opening ceremonies will be at 4 p.m. Wednesday and closing ceremonies at 4 p.m. July 20 at UCLA's Drake Stadium.

Schedule of Events

The schedule of other events, subject to change: athletics (track and field), July 11-17, Drake Stadium; badminton, July 13-17, Memorial Park in Santa Monica; basketball, July 11-19, Pepperdine University in Malibu; cycling, July 11, 13, 15 and 17, Griffith Park and Emma Wood Park in Ventura; soccer, July 11-20, El Camino College in Torrance, and shooting, July 12-13 and 15-16, Prado Range in Corona.

Also, swimming, July 11-16, Pepperdine; table tennis, July 11-17, Santa Monica College; team handball, July 11, 13, 15, 17 and 19, Santa Monica College; tennis, July 11-19, Pepperdine; volleyball, July 11-19, Palisades High School (with the finals at Pepperdine); water polo, July 15-20, Pepperdine.

Some late additions: the hammer throw at 10 a.m. July 16 at West Los Angeles College (free admission) and a 1,000-meter cycling sprint from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Santa Monica, with the starting line at Ocean Avenue and the California Incline.

As with the Olympics, there will also be an arts festival. Part of it will be presented July 9-19 at Pepperdine's Smothers Theater. Programs there will include dance, mime and acrobatics by the Shanghai Theater of the Deaf from the China; a Swiss children's singing-signing company performing "A Show of Hands, U. S. A."; a group from Spain that will present a signed performance of Garcia Lorca's "Blood Wedding" and dance presentations by the Gallaudet Dancers and Deaf Dimensions.

'Survivors of Holocaust'

Another part of the festival will be an exhibit of photography and documents called "In der Nacht (In the Night): Visions of Deaf Survivors of the Holocaust." The exhibit will be held July 8-21 at the Hillel-Streisand Center for Jewish Cultural Arts, 900 Hilgard Ave. Hours are 5 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The motto of the games is "Per Ludos Aequalitas" (Equality Through Sport).

The honorary chairman of the games is Jeff Float, a hearing-impaired American swimmer. Float is a graduate of the World Games for the Deaf, and in 1977 he won 10 gold medals in swimming at the 13th games in Bucharest, Romania.

At last year's Olympics, he showed he was one of the world's top athletes, not just one of the deaf world's best. The USC graduate, who is 80% deaf in one ear and 60% deaf in the other, swam on the winning U. S. 800-meter freestyle relay team that upset West Germany. Float is believed to be the first hearing-impaired American athlete to win a gold medal.

Plenty of Top Talent

Although Float is not competing in this year's games, the competition is expected to have many athletes of his caliber. Carol Billone, vice chairman and director of the games, said, "I want people to know that this is not a 'Special Olympics' but an Olympics that is special." Billone is a teacher of the deaf for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

These are the second games for the deaf to be held in America and the second to be run by deaf people. The first, on both counts, were held in 1965 in Washington, site of Gallaudet College, the only liberal arts college in the world exclusively for the deaf. Herb Schreiber of North Hollywood, who attended Gallaudet and UCLA and owns a travel business, is general chairman of the games and has been an officer in the American Athletic Assn. for the Deaf for 22 years.

The games are expected to bring together about 1,600 athletes from 27 nations. About 200,000 spectators are expected at the games and the arts festival.

To finance the games, donations totaling $4.2 million (the last available figure) were raised from individuals, businesses and corporations.

Schreiber and Billone both singled out General Telephone Company of California for praise. Billone said that GTE "is our biggest and most outstanding sponsor." Schreiber added, "In Europe, you must understand, every nation depends upon the government for money. In the United States, the government does not give you a penny. We're grateful to GTE for their support."

Notable Athletes

And there are some praiseworthy athletes on the U. S. team.

- Distance runner Steve McCalley, 32, a self-employed cabinet maker from North Hollywood who set a World Games for the Deaf record of 3:49.5 for the 1,500-meter run at Bucharest in 1977. McCalley also holds U. S. records for two miles, three miles, 5,000 meters, six miles and 10,000 meters. Reportedly, he may try his hand at the marathon, a first in this year's games, as well as run some other distance events.

- The women's volleyball team, runner-up to the Soviet Union in the last two games. Five members of the 1981 team return: Luann Barron of Council Bluffs, Iowa; Becky Clark of Memphis, Nancy Mumme of Irving, Tex.; Olivia Schnorr of Clinton, Md., and Vicki Kitsembel of Silver Springs, Md. Kitsembel also played on the 1977 team.

- Luann Barron's sister, Stacia, who is back from the 1981 U. S. basketball team. The current team is favored for the gold medal. Among Stacia's teammates are sisters JoAnn and Nancy O'Neill of North Attleboro, Mass.; JoAnn was also on the 1981 team, and Nancy threw the javelin that year and is playing basketball in the games for the first time.

- The U. S. men's basketball team, shooting for its eighth consecutive gold medal since 1957. Some of this year's top players are Willie Brown of Hofstra University and three repeaters from the 1981 gold medalists: Michael Ashford of Chicago, Craig Brown of Kannapolis, N. C., and Michael Torres of Canoga Park.

- Pat Kuehn of Washington, a recent Gallaudet College graduate. Last summer high jumper Kuehn set a world record for the deaf, leaping 6-11 1/2 at a meet at the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin.

- Swimmers Laura Barber, 21, of Allison Park, Pa., and Michelle Poole of Cary, N. C., and swimmer-water polo player Reed Gershwind, 19, of San Diego (who also competes for Cal State Northridge). Barber holds four world swimming records for the deaf; Poole and Gershwind have each set two.

- Barry Barron, brother of volleyball player Luann and basketball player Stacia. Barry won't be in the 15th games because wrestling was dropped. But he and his team still wanted a taste of international competition and were able at the last minute to enter the Augustine Bresino International Freestyle Greco-Roman Championships last month in Mexico City.

It was the first time the wrestling team had competed in an international tournament against hearing wrestlers. The hearing U. S. team won the tournament, but their hearing-impaired counterparts were more than OK. The deaf U. S. wrestlers won two gold, two silver and three bronze medals in Greco-Roman events and one gold, two silver and three bronze in freestyle.

Ticket information for both the hearing and the deaf is at (213) 456-4264, a number equipped with a telecommunications device for the deaf. Tickets also may be purchased at the venues on days of the events.

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