LILLEHAMMER IN '94
The biggest surprise to come out of Seoul last week was the awarding of the 1994 Winter Games to tiny Lillehammer, Norway, a farming community of 22,000. The selection was interpreted by many observers as a sign that the International Olympic Committee is trying to pull in the reins on expansion. "We have to take some measures because we are growing too quickly," said IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, of Spain.
But the reasons for choosing Lillehammer were not that simple. The choice was something of a personal defeat for Samaranch, who favored Sofia, Bulgaria, as host for the first of the staggered Olympics. (Beginning in 1994, the Summer and Winter Olympics will no longer be held in the same year.)
According to IOC insiders, Sofia was eliminated on the first vote either because of a backlash against the pushiness of Sofia's lobbyists or because of a vengeful consortium of Latin American countries. The Latin Americans were upset because a South Korean had been elected to fill a spot on the IOC executive board previously held by a Brazilian.
September 25, 1988
Anchorage, Alaska, was dumped on the second vote. It seems that some IOC members were put off by the fact that they saw only a videotape of President Reagan speaking on behalf of the U.S. candidate; Norway had sent Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland to Seoul to lobby in person, and Sweden had dispatched King Carl XVI Gustaf to sing the praises of ‚Äö√†√∂‚àö¬±stersund.
Lillehammer won out over ‚Äö√†√∂‚àö¬±stersund, 45 to 39. No one was more shocked by that outcome than the Norwegians. Indeed, when Norwegian journalist Espen Hansen walked the streets of Lillehammer a week before the IOC vote, he found only one person who liked the idea of hosting the Olympics. "The rest didn't care," he said. "Apathy."
To many observers, though, the Games need Lillehammer more than Lillehammer needs the Games. The growth of the Olympics in recent years has made them more hectic and less fun than they once were. Said Rick Nerland of the Anchorage delegation, "I think the old guys wanted to send a message: 'Let's get back to our roots.' "
THE WRATH OF GRAPES
Splat! Paul Tavilla, 54, of Arlington, Mass., stood at the base of Boston's 60-story John Hancock Tower on Sept. 3 with his neck bent back as grapes rained down around him at an estimated speed of 110 mph.
Some of the black ribier grapes hit the building on the way down. Quite a few exploded on the concrete around Tavilla. Finally, after some 70 grapes had been dropped by Russell Hagopian, his dentist son-in-law, Tavilla caught one in his mouth, and 100 spectators burst into applause.
Tavilla, a produce merchant, knows a thing or two about grapes, and it's good that he does, because catching them released from the top of a skyscraper isn't easy. "It's very, very dangerous if you don't know what you're doing," says Tavilla, whose 788-foot catch in Boston surpassed his previous world record of 660 feet, set at the bottom of the Sumitomo Building in Tokyo on March 1, 1986. "You could put out an eye." In addition, there's the strain on his neck. "It absolutely kills me," he says.
Then why does Tavilla do it? "I was always good at catching things in my mouth as a kid. It's fun. Plus the grapes taste good."
THE UNTOLD STORY
Six years ago, South Korean lightweight boxer Duk Koo Kim died from brain injuries suffered in a fight in Las Vegas against Ray (Boom Boom) Mancini, but his six-year-old son, Chi Wan, has still not been told of his father's death. An NBC crew discovered that fact while doing a feature on Kim.
According to the producer, Susan Sprecher, there's a deep conflict between the child's mother and her parents as to when the son, born seven months after Kim's death, should be told. Says Sprecher, "The really eerie part is that the little boy still thinks his father is boxing in the United States."
A GET-TOUGH POLICY
The NFL, beset as it is by drug problems (SI, Sept. 19), would do well to follow the lead of the NBA. At the NBA's annual meeting last week, commissioner David Stern announced a program, approved by both the NBA Players Association and league management, of mandatory drug testing for first-year players during training camp. Each rookie will be required to submit to urinalysis on an unannounced basis; if he tests positive for cocaine or heroin or refuses to take the test, he'll be suspended for one year without pay. The league would cover the expense of his drug rehabilitation. Compare that with the NFL policy of a 30-day suspension for a second-time offender, who may or may not be paid at the discretion of his team.
Said Stern, "Rather than bring people into the league with existing drug problems, we think that the concept of preemployment testing will enable us to identify and treat players with drug problems before their NBA careers begin. We also think this sends the appropriate message to college players: Drug use may cost you your career."
A VIP boat for the syndicate sponsoring Stars & Stripes, the catamaran that successfully defended the America's Cup two weeks ago, was equipped with television monitors to pick up ESPN's coverage of the cat's two races against New Zealand. But after the final race, the screens were suddenly filled with an X-rated movie. Dennis Conner's 16-year-old daughter, Shanna, said to her father's mother, Pamela, "Grandma, don't look."
LEAGUE OF NATIONS
In a recent American League game between Kansas City and Minnesota, Israel Sanchez pitched for the Royals, and Mark Portugal and German Gonzalez threw for the Twins.
NOT EVEN CLOSE
The results are official. The journalists outnumber the athletes in Seoul, 15,446-9,627.
OLYMPIC BOWLING: LET THE FRAMES BEGIN
The team names weren't the pin heads and the lane lords. Pizza wasn't served by the slice. There wasn't even a beer frame.
On Sunday in Seoul, bowling went Olympic, and to the 24 competitors, including two Americans, that meant serious business, even if bowling is only a demonstration sport. "People still think competitive bowling is like what they see on Laverne and Shirley" said U.S. bowler Mark Lewis, the manager of a McDonald's in Wichita, Kans. "I don't drink beer. I don't even like the taste of beer. Maybe having bowling as an Olympic sport will change some minds."
Maybe. Judging from the excitement in Seoul, bowling for medals may have a future. It certainly helped that the local favorite, Kwon Jong Yul of South Korea, made the three-player men's final. The packed gallery at the bowling venue cheered him wildly as he rolled strike after strike, ending each with a dramatic slide on his knees as his fists punched the air. He threw eight strikes en route to a 254 total. That was enough to destroy Jack Chin Loke Wong of Singapore, who finished second with a score of 223. (Lewis came in sixth.) Kwon capped his victory by jumping into the arms of his coach. He then picked up his blue bowling ball and gave it a kiss.
Arianne Cerdena of the Philippines won the women's title, finishing with six straight strikes to beat Atsuko Asai of Japan 249-211. (Debbie McMullen of Denver finished seventh.) Cerdena burst into tears when she completed her last frame as a dozen of her compatriots rushed onto the lane. There was no telling them that bowling didn't count—no athlete from the Philippines had ever won an Olympic gold medal of any sort.
Bowling was a demonstration sport once before, in the 1936 Berlin Games. Included in the audience in Seoul were Karl Goldhammer, 81, of Frankfurt, West Germany, and Joe Norris, 80, of San Diego, the gold and silver medalists, respectively, in '36.
The status of bowling for the 1992 Games is still uncertain, but supporters of the sport have high hopes. Still, there is a degree of skepticism. Said Terry Shrum of Brunswick, a sponsor of Team USA, "It does seem kind of odd to say 'Go out and get the 7-10 split for your country.' "
THEY SAID IT
•William (the Refrigerator) Perry, Chicago Bears defensive lineman, on his attempts to lose weight: "It's great. Everything is behind me."
•Jack McKeon, San Diego Padres manager, asked how long he will retain the title of general manager: "Till the end of the year. Whenever that is."