It doesn't just seem that SI's preparations for the next Olympics begin almost before the previous Games are over. In September of 1964, only a few months after the Innsbruck Games, a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED emissary visited Grenoble to lay the groundwork for coverage of the 1968 Winter Olympics, looking into lodging, accreditation, transportation and the hiring of a private Telex circuit. Two more major reconnaissances have been made since, and now in this issue we begin covering a series of pre-Olympic events scheduled in Grenoble this winter. Besides being newsworthy in their own right, these contests are designed to test the facilities and the site's general readiness. Incidentally, they provide a good test of our own readiness.
The most important preparation, Associate Editor Bob Ottum wires from Grenoble, "is to stand in front of a mirror, hands outstretched, palms up, and practice an eloquent shrug that will get you anywhere in France. The shrug disarms customs officers when they discover you don't have the papers for your cameras. The shrug makes even an American newsman an all-right guy with the French."
Another essential, according to Ottum, is to quickly learn the phrase √ßa ira, which means, "it will go." "At Alpe d'Huez," he reports, "the bobsled teams got rather sarcastic about French Olympic preparations. 'This is not a bobsled run, this is a plaything,' said Britain's Tony Nash. Said the French, '√áa ira.' Will the housing be ready? Will the new highways go through? '√áa ira,' say the French."
Actually the work at Grenoble is progressing nicely, but the bobs did not go so well. Since these pre-Olympic events are supposed to be run off exactly on the location and schedule of the forthcoming Games, the bob championships were slated to take place on two weekends. The four-man event never did occur. Early in the second week, it was decided to hold the two-man championships in predawn cold under sodium-vapor light. This pleased Photographer Jerry Cooke no end. "Great, eerie color effect," he said, looking in wonder at his light meter, and the eerie results illustrate Bob Ottum's account of the disaster (page 16). The phrase √ßa ira may take on an entirely different meaning for the Olympic officials—for it looks as if the Alpe d'Huez bob course will have to go—or at least be rebuilt.
February 20, 1967
Hopefully, the stories that Ottum and Cooke will send from Grenoble for later issues will end on happier notes.
Meanwhile other SPORTS ILLUSTRATED teams are gathering material for our pre-Olympic "winter book." Photographers Ernst Haas and John Zimmerman are recording the scene and the athletes at such important sports events this year as the men's world speed skating and the Holmenkollen in Oslo, the women's world speed skating in The Netherlands, the world figure-skating and hockey championships in Vienna. Some of their photographs will be published immediately after the events. Others will go into our pregame preview, the issue in which we go out on the ice—possibly thin—and tell you who will win the medals at Grenoble just one year from now.