On Sept. 30, tickets to the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary were supposed to go on sale across North America. On that date Canadians would find official applications in major newspapers and at Royal Bank of Canada branches, and U.S. citizens would be able to pick them up in American Automobile Association offices. All ticket orders were to be handled through the mail on a first-come, first-served basis.
In the initial week of the public sale the Calgary Olympic Committee (OCO '88) received more than 60,000 orders for their 1.6 million tickets. But all of the applications were from Canadians. The U.S. part of the operation had become a mess. Now it has become a scandal.
For reasons that aren't yet clear, applications didn't reach AAA offices until Oct. 8. One report is that they were lost in a warehouse somewhere in New York City; a second is that there were errors in the printing; and now there's a rumor that the forms were intentionally withheld. This suspicion arises because some 8,000 Americans did receive ticket forms in time—from a Calgary-based organization called World Tickets Inc., which is 99% owned by OCO '88 ticket manager Jim McGregor. The WTI forms were mailed to prospective U.S. customers who had already shown an interest in the Games by contacting either the Calgary Tourist Bureau or the OCO itself. These targeted buyers, culled from tourist bureau and OCO lists, were mailed the somewhat suspicious WTI package: a plain brown envelope bearing no Olympic insignia and containing a pre-addressed return envelope and a ticket application that was a near replica of the official one. It differed in three crucial details: It demanded payment in U.S. dollars, by check or money order only, and only in the special WTI envelope. In fact, Calgary's ticket prices are in Canadian dollars, and credit cards are an acceptable method of payment.
October 19, 1986
Because the U.S. dollar is currently worth 38% more than the Canadian, whoever would receive the instantly redeemable payments to WTI would have cash worth 38% more than the actual cost of the tickets. And that would be a substantial pile of cash, since U.S. ticket sales are expected to range anywhere from $1 million to $5 million.
Last week the Calgary police started an investigation into the matter, and ticket manager McGregor, who is not commenting, suddenly was off on a one-month leave of absence. On Friday, OCO '88 won a court order allowing it to seize WTI's post office box and whatever ticket orders are already in it. Calgary officials said they will honor those orders and asked customers who sent checks to send new ones in Canadian dollars. Those who sent money orders will receive a rebate equal to the going exchange rate. And anyone smart enough to spot a scam and hold on to his money must now go to the end of the first-come, first-served line.
Last week the syndicate that owns 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed voted to move the horse from Spendthrift Farm to Calumet Farm, just down the road a piece in Lexington, Ky. A stall was cleared next to the living quarters of—you guessed it!—Alydar, the game rival who finished on Affirmed's heels in all three Triple Crown races. When Affirmed was led into his new domicile, Alydar peered through the bars between the stalls, then reared back and whinnied. "I really don't think they remember each other," said Calumet Farm president J.T. Lundy. "But let the nostalgia fans have their fun."
A SPOOKY STAT FOR HALLOWEEN
For reasons best understood by the company's promotions department, Timex has commissioned a poll of 1,000 Americans to determine the country's "attitude toward adventure." Among the findings: Twenty-one percent have participated in adventuresome sports activities in the last five years; men are more adventuresome than women; the West is slightly more adventuresome than other parts of the country. The final 48-page report, prepared by Research & Forecasts Inc., concludes that "Americans believe being adventurous means relying on one's own instincts and surviving natural elements." Well, not always natural. While only 5% of "adventuresome people" have tried hang gliding, only 3% have ridden camels and only 1% have gone on jungle treks, a full 7% of all respondents claim personal adventures with the occult.
FAIR HARVARD GETS SKUNKED
Cornell's teams visited Harvard last Saturday, and goose eggs were laid all over Greater Boston. The field-hockey game ended in a 0-0 double-overtime tie, as did the men's and women's soccer games. And Cornell's gridders beat Harvard 3-0, which marked the third straight time the Crimson has been shut out and the first time the varsity has suffered three scoreless games in a row since 1879.
ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING
For better or worse, the Monkees are back on the pop charts. And the Beatles' 1964 hit Twist and Shout has reappeared in the Top 40. In the New York area another golden oldie is again selling briskly. The Amazing Mets, an album that sold 100,000 copies in 1969, has been reissued by Sutra Records and has sold "three, maybe four thousand in the last couple of weeks," according to Merrill Kass, Sutra's director of marketing. The collection of 10 uniformly awful songs—including the prophetic We're Gonna Win (he Series, the joyous Mets—Hallelujah and the bucolic Green Grass of Shea—created such a stir during the miracle season that seven Mets were booked for a two-week gig in Vegas and a one-night stand on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Since the reissue is riding a wave of excitement created by the 1986 Mets, it seems only fair that the oldie is being outsold by Let's Go Mets, a music video starring this year's team. Having both productions out simultaneously has created one of those classic, never-to-be-resolved sports debates: Who were lousier singers, the '69 or the '86 Mets?
A RUTHIAN SKIER RETIRES
To much media fanfare, University of Texas freshman Mary Lou Retton announced two weeks ago that she was retiring from gymnastics and that she has hopes of a broadcasting career. "I can't keep flipping my whole life," she said.
Much more quietly, another American Olympic hero recently retired from world-class competition. Cross-country skier Bill Koch said he is leaving the U.S. ski team, which means he will be ineligible for international competition. Koch said he'll continue to promote the sport and perhaps enter some domestic events, but that, at 31, "I didn't want to make the commitment to training that I'd have to."
When Koch won a surprise silver medal in the 1976 Innsbruck Games, the first medal ever won by the U.S. in cross-country, he singlehandedly created a Nordic boomlet in this country. In 1982 he revolutionized the sport by employing the then radical technique of skating in becoming the first American to win the World Cup title. This year, for the first time, half the World Cup events will be designated skating races and half will require the traditional style. It's not difficult to cite cross-country racers with more wins or talent than Koch, but it's hard to find one who has matched his impact. Jim Page, the U.S. Nordic program director, said last week, "He was the Babe Ruth of the sport."
A RUTHIAN SKATER REMAINS
While one winter-sports legend has retired, another has never bothered to, at least not technically. Listed as an "available" player in last week's NHL waiver draft was a Blackhawks defenseman: No. 4, Bobby Orr, who's still on contract but who hasn't played since 1978.
MUST BE A TINY TROPHY
Call it the Lilliput's Cup. That's more manageable, certainly, than the event's actual title: the First Annual America's Cup Style Challenge Radio Control Sailboat Regatta. Thirty-five sailors—they really call themselves "sailors"—recently gathered at Conservatory Pond in Central Park for the New York regional competition. Entrants had to be 18 or older, which seemed a silly rule considering that they were, after all, playing with toy boats. Their 20-inch yachts were maneuvered through a course that had been set according to international racing rules. The craft in the closed-class competition were exact replicas of the 12-meter yachts that just began challenging for the America's Cup off Perth, Australia (page 36). Or almost exact replicas; there were no concealed winged keels at the pond. Although the rudders and sails were electronically controlled with hand-held radios, the boats were powered by wind.
It was a line day for racing, with a steady breeze and gusts that occasionally threatened to topple the boats but, thankfully, never did. Several hundred people gathered to watch as John Elmaleh, a 26-year-old carpenter from Brooklyn, beat all comers. Elmaleh won a trip to San Diego, where he will compete in December against sailors from five countries for the world title. His fellow New York yachtsmen sent him off with an urging not heard on these shores since 1983: Keep the Cup at home!
The races have begun Down Under—and just whose boat is this? Turn to page 16.
THEY SAID IT
•Roger Clemens, Red Sox pitcher, on what kind of music the team listens to when traveling to a game: "Whatever Jim Rice wants."
•John Felske, Phillies manager, on his team's late-season surge to second place: "We had a case of Ripple on ice."
•Neil Lomax, St. Louis quarterback, on the time it took the replay referees to decide if a ball had been caught inbounds: "I thought they were ordering a pizza."
•Jeff Kemp, 49ers quarterback, when asked about his rapport with wide receiver Jerry Rice: "Rapport? You mean like, 'You run as fast as you can, and I'll throw it as far as I can'?"