CALGARY IS READY
A strange and wondrous calm hung over the frozen streets of Calgary last week as the city put the finishing touches on its preparations for the XV Winter Olympics, which open Saturday. Brightly colored banners were strung from the streetlights, though a good number of them were promptly removed by local souvenir hunters recently infected by Olympic fever. Carpenters, bundled against the below-zero temperatures, unhurriedly went about their work at the Olympic Plaza, the hub of the Games, in downtown Calgary. Traffic was light, parking was readily available, and restaurants were ready and willing to seat diners.
Could this tranquility have been brought about by the 640,000 Calgarians collectively holding their breath, not quite believing that things were proceeding as smoothly as they appeared? What should have been the final, hectic hours were, in fact, so devoid of frenzy that the citizenry and the Olympic organizing committee—OCO'88—had to restrain themselves from declaring the Games a success before they had even begun.
Not even the discovery that some dastardly entrepreneur was passing off "tinny" reproductions of ABC-TV's Olympic pins as the real thing could dampen the optimistic mood. Citywide, the message was: Welcome. world, and let the Games begin—but don't be too long about it, lest our luck run out and a chinook blow in and melt our joy.
Chinooks, the warm, dry winds that come out of the west, are usually greeted with smiles in this part of the world. They herald a thaw, which can save the lives of snowbound livestock. Now the very mention of the word is enough to make Calgarians shiver in terror. As recently as Jan. 23 chinook winds gusting as high as 29 mph delayed the start of Canada's national luge championships, held at Calgary's Olympic Park, for some 10½ hours. At nearby Can-more, site of the Olympic Nordic events, snow had to be trucked in from Mount Allan, where the Alpine races will be held during the Games, for practice runs.
Concern about unwinterlike weather was so great that in December white sand was trucked in from British Columbia and spread on the field of McMahon Stadium, where the opening ceremonies will be held. The sand, usually used in golf course bunkers, looks a lot like snow when viewed from a distance—particularly now that a couple of inches of the real stuff is lying on top of it.
The weather finally began to cooperate when a cold snap arrived two weeks ago. On Jan. 31 the temperature plummeted to —23°, the coldest recorded in Calgary in more than a year, and the mean temperature for the next five days was —5.8°. Round-the-clock snowmaking began, so a week before the Games all venues had ample stockpiles, even drifts, of snow at their disposal. Further, an additional 2.3 inches of real snow fell, dusting the evergreens and giving Calgary the look of, if not exactly a winter wonderland, at least winter.
There was something else in the Calgary air in the days before the start of the Olympics, something as warming, in its way, as a chinook. The local populace, for months skeptical about the Games' finances and occasionally surly about the dearth of tickets available to them, had come around and opened its arms to the world with guileless frontier hospitality. "It started with the torch relay through Canada," said Calgary Mayor Ralph Klein, who had predicted all along that his constituents would fall in line. "And it has been building ever since."
Hand-lettered signs along roadways urged Calgarians to be patient with visitors lost in the maze of one-way streets. Passersby asked if they could help if one so much as cast an admiring glance at the skyline. Volunteers, some in white cowboy hats and turquoise parkas, clapped out-of-towners on the shoulder, seemingly amazed that they had come all the way to Calgary. Or maybe the locals were amazed that they had pulled it off, that this town of big skies and bigger dreams will be host to the world for 16 days, whatever winds may blow.
USING THE OLD BEAN
Beano Cook was wrong. Cook, who's best known as ESPN's college football studio commentator, predicted in both the Pittsburgh Press and on his Pittsburgh radio show that the Washington Redskins would beat the Denver Broncos 41-10 in Super Bowl XXII. He missed the final score by a whole point.
Since 1962 the official sport of Maryland has been jousting. That's right, the sport of medieval kings. In the modern version, riders carry lances, not to knock other riders off their horses but to pluck progressively smaller rings from a string. The sport is popular in certain parts of Maryland, where it was introduced in 1632.
In the past there have been two unsuccessful efforts in the state legislature to oust jousting in favor of lacrosse, whose history in Maryland dates back to only 1878. Now the lacrosse lobbyists are back again, this time with a bill that would designate lacrosse as the "state team sport" and jousting as the "state individual sport."
Quite naturally, the jousting partisans have gotten up on their high horses to make a pointed attack. Says state senator Bernie Fowler of Calvert County, "Even if I were not so aligned with jousting, I can't see any reason why lacrosse should be the state team sport over football or baseball."
The chief backer of the bill, Baltimore's John Stude, says, "We're not trying to take anything away from jousting." Yeah, and Lancelot wasn't trying to take Guinevere away from King Arthur, either.
SI's Jack McCallum reports from the NBA All-Star Game:
With the NBA's finest gathered in Chicago last weekend, there were bound to be some dazzling moves. The most original move, though, was not made by slam-dunk-contest winner and game MVP Michael Jordan, but by Larry Fleisher, the head of the NBA Players Association for the last 26 years. At Fleisher's urging, the 21 player representatives and five union officers voted unanimously to remove the association as the exclusive collective bargaining agent for the players.
The most recent collective bargaining agreement between the players and NBA management expired eight months ago, and negotiations for a new agreement had reached an impasse. In October the players filed a class-action suit in U.S. district court in Newark, N.J., charging the NBA with antitrust violations. While a jury won't begin hearing the case until late fall, Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise has ruled that the provisions of the expired agreement remain in effect as long as management "reasonably believes" that those provisions, or close variations of them, will be incorporated in the next agreement.
The players could have voted to strike the All-Star Game or strike during the playoffs, but Fleisher decided to recommend the more radical move. He reasons that since the collective bargaining agreement was made between the NBA and the union, there can be no agreement if there is no union. And if there is no union, there no longer exists "a reasonable belief" that restrictive practices such as the draft, salary caps and the clubs' right of first refusal of free agents would be included in the next agreement. Thus, the NBA would lose its exemption from antitrust laws.
Fleisher's move certainly got management's attention, if hardly its ringing endorsement. NBA commissioner David Stern, who didn't seem panicked by the move, even went so far as to call the ploy "smart" and "an interesting stratagem." Stern also insists that what the union and the NBA want is the same thing—a fair collective bargaining agreement.
Litigation or negotiation, the NBA will be playing some interesting games off the court in the next few months.
The Denver Broncos kept denying they were a one-man team, and in a negative sort of way, they proved their case in Super Bowl XXII. But evidence suggests that there is a one-woman team out there. Angie Brimage, a 5'7" senior forward, scored 51 points for Brighton (Mass.) High last Friday. However, Brighton lost to Boston English 55-51.
THEY SAID IT
•Steve Sabol, president of NFL Films, on the difference between Super Bowl I and Super Bowl XXII: "There were no blimps at the first Super Bowl. This year there were three blimps. It will live forever as a day of blimpfamy."
•George Steinbrenner, New York Yankees owner, at the U.S. Naval Academy football banquet: "My good friend Bo [Annapolis athletic director J.O. Coppedge] called me about a year ago and asked me if I believed in free speech. I said I certainly did. He said, 'Fine, you're giving one at the Naval Academy.' "