Let the Games begin again:
•They should not have been spread out over three weekends and 16 days. Even ABC, which is broadcasting 94½ hours of the Olympics for its $309 million, admits the Games are too long. But Dick Pound, an IOC member from Canada, argues that the full 16 days allowed by the Olympic charter are needed to meet scheduling demands. "We play our first hockey game just after the opening ceremonies and our last just before the closing ceremonies," he says. Some athletes also like the length. Said one whose competition ended last Thursday, "Now I have a week and a half to party before I go out into the real world." But Sarajevo did just fine with 13 days in 1984, and 1992 host Albertville, France, should take note.
•Canada Olympic Park, site of the ski jumps and bobsled and luge runs, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The chinook wreaked havoc with the scheduling at COP, which is located in a veritable wind tunnel just outside of Calgary. Athletes and spectators alike were inconvenienced. "The people who made the decision to build the jumps didn't know anything about ski jumping," said Canadian club coach Tom Thompson, who tested the jumps for the competitors. Thompson thought the jumps should have been in the mountains near Canmore, the Nordic site, which is about an hour west of Calgary. At least wind screens should have been erected.
February 29, 1988
•Too many Olympic tickets were reserved for VIPs—Very Inconsiderate People—who never bothered to show up at events. Rows of seats lay empty even as would-be ticket buyers were being turned away at the door.
Still, Calgary more than made up for the problems with unbounded cheer. Citizens kept apologizing for the warm weather and lack of snow, which were hardly their fault. "We may not get the Winter Olympics again," said Calgary fireman Ed Look, "but we might just get the Summer Games."
THE ENDANGERED EAGLE
They wrote songs for him. Johnny Carson wanted him. The British Olympic Committee had to detach two press aides just to handle his interview requests. "Ed-die, Ed-die," the people shouted everywhere he went.
By now the whole world knows about Eddie Edwards, Eddie the Eagle, the bespectacled, 24-year-old plasterer from Cheltenham, England, Great Britain's only ski jumper. Ski plummeter might be a better description. In the 70-meter jump on the second day of competition, the Eagle flew 180 feet on both his jumps, as compared with gold medalist Matti Nyk‚Äö√†√∂¬¨√ünen's best of 294 feet. "The most important thing for me was to survive," Eddie said, and everyone laughed. Well, almost everyone.
While Eddie and his fans waited in breathless anticipation for his attempts in the 90-meter competition this week, the sport's officials were attempting to discourage him. They were especially afraid for him given the chinooky conditions at Olympic Park, which postponed ski jumping for several days. When a reporter pointed out that not competing could cost the Eagle a million dollars in endorsements, Rob McCormack, the chief of competition, said, "We also may be saving him from two broken arms and two broken legs."
The officials were right. There were far too many novelty competitors in these Games, like Edwards and the equally famous Jamaican bobsled team, which would have flipped its sled over on a less forgiving track. The joke competitors added fun to the proceedings, but they also added unnecessary elements of danger.
PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB
While in her room at the Olympic Village, U.S. luger Erica Terwillegar overheard one maid telling another about a trip to an Olympic event the day before. "Went up to the women's luge," said the housekeeper. "What a waste of 20 dollars."
Global Sports Ltd., a Wellesley Hills, Mass., travel firm, came up with a novel way of accommodating its 120 visitors to the Olympics. The company approached the Faithful Companions of Jesus, who have a convent near Calgary's Saddledome, and the 20 sisters agreed to open their doors for a financial consideration and much-coveted tickets to figure skating. "The sisters are enjoying meeting people," said Sister Elizabeth Fitzgerald.
The basement of the convent was even converted into a Western-style saloon. Someone suggested that it be called the Bar Nun.
GOING FOR THE SILVER
Being a national sports official undoubtedly has its privileges, but it also has its price. While Canadian sports minister Otto Jelinek was away in Calgary last week, thieves broke into his Ottawa home.
Some athletes at the Canmore crosscountry facility took certain liberties, which explains the sign on a wall near the temperature board: DÉFENSE DE PEE-PEE SVP.
COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN
These Winter Olympics are the longest ever, but the Games must seem even longer to ABC's Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford, hosts of the network's late-night wrap-up show. The Giffords' homey set—constructed in the ABC compound in the Calgary Stampede Park and modeled after a Colorado dude ranch—features a cozy gas fire and a small library of books whose titles can't be made out by the TV audience. For those who might be curious, the books include Hotel by Arthur Hailey, Rachel, The Rabbi's Wife by Silvia Tennenbaum and seven—yes, seven—copies of Blind Ambition by John Dean.
THEY'RE OUT TO SWEEP THE WORLD
Maybe they don't look as athletic as, say, speed skaters. Maybe they look as though they're playing a Brobdingnagian version of bar shuffle-board or attempting to sweep the ice with long-handled shaving brushes. But try telling a curler that his or her pastime is not a sport and you may have a 42-pound block of granite dropped on your toe.
Curling, which rivals hockey as Canada's national game, was a demonstration sport at Calgary, as it had been at four previous Winter Olympics (1924, '32, '36 and '64). Every session at Max Bell Arena was a sellout, although many VIPs with tickets failed to show. In the finals on Saturday, Norway trounced Switzerland 10-2 in the men's competition, while Canada came from behind to nip Sweden 7-5 in the women's. When Canada's first gold medal of the Games—an unofficial medal, of course—became a sure thing in the 10th end, the crowd erupted in cheers for skip Linda Moore and her rink.
If some of those terms sound foreign, consider this passage in The Calgary Sun describing a shot by Sweden's Elisabeth Hogstrom: "The 37-year-old bank employee drew around cover to the button, beating out two Canadian rocks snuggled a few corn broom hairs away which would have given the Canadians a steal of two and the lead." The raging curling controversy, by the way, is whether the traditional corn broom or the push broom is better for sweeping.
While curlers were attempting to familiarize the rest of the world with their sport last week, International Curling Federation president Philip Dawson of Scotland expressed disappointment that more IOC members didn't stop by. "We mean nothing to the IOC," said Dawson.
The IOC will make a decision on the sport's future Olympic status when it meets in South Korea later this year before the opening of the Seoul Summer Games. No matter what the outcome of that session, don't anyone tell the Canadians the curling gold medal they won last week didn't count. Said third Lindsay Sparkes of North Vancouver, "That medal means as much or more to us than a real gold medal would to any athlete here."
THEY SAID IT
•Simon Schenk, coach of the Swiss hockey team, on the security measures taken at the Games: "Some of my players have told me they're surprised they don't have to show their passes at the blue line when they backcheck."
•Heather Percy, mother of Karen Percy, Canada's bronze medalist in the women's downhill, confirming her daughter's reputation as a klutz: "I will never understand how she can ski down a mountain at 50 or 60 miles an hour, then come home and fall down the stairs."