Farewell to Calgary
Calgary, Alberta — OLYMPIC flames, which licked the skies over McMahon Stadium and Calgary Tower for 16 days, have been snuffed out, but the mass getaway at Calgary International Airport continues unabated. As it does, departing travelers are faced with two realities: that the biggest, most expensive, longest, and probably most festive Winter Games in history are finally over; and that if they hadn't packed so much superfluous survival gear - woolen socks, sweaters, and long underwear - they might be going home with a lot more of what really counts, namely Olympic pins, posters, programs, and stuffed Hidy and Howdy mascots.
These adorable polar bears turned out to be terribly miscast, since balmy temperatures and snowless skies were major features of these Games, as were gale-force Chinook winds swept down from the Rockies. The stiffest winds at this time of year in a quarter-century caused numerous postponements of outdoor events, all of which were eventually completed.
Though the disruptions led to an estimated $1.5 million in ticket refunds, they couldn't diminish the overwhelming enthusiasm and support for Canada's first Winter Games.
Frank King, chairman of the local organizing committee, said he foresees ``no financial problems whatsoever'' in the final accounting for this billion-dollar extravaganza.
The TV-inspired stretching of the Games over three weekends was fortuitous, he said, given the need to reschedule events. He also defended the oft-criticized location of the luge and bobsled runs and ski jumps at Canada Olympic Park, an unsheltered complex on the city's outskirts.
``I'd like to think this is the turning point in Winter Games history,'' he said citing an attendance record of some 1 million spectators. ``There should be consideration in the future for making sure people can get to the venues ... making sure they're located in proximity to population centers and ... transportation systems.''
Once events started, Hidy and Howdy were joined by an unofficial human mascot, Eddie the Eagle. Britain's Eddie Edwards, a spectacled plasterer from Cheltenham, created a spectacle by flying off the 70- and 90-meter ski jumps and becoming an instant celebrity.
Some may have resented the attention focused on last-place Edwards and others of his kind - the johnny-come-latelies to the ice and snow athletic scene. They constitute a burgeoning group of glorified losers and also-rans who have joined in the winter fun - many from sunny climes like Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica.
The Games also had plenty of legitimate stars, however, even if few approached the magnitude of an Eric Heiden or a Jean-Claude Killy.
One who did was East Germany's Katarina Witt, not so much because she won the women's figure skating title but because she managed to defend her 1984 Olympic crown - a feat no one had accomplished in the Game's most glamorous event since Norway's Sonja Henie retired with her third straight gold in 1936.
Witt has a face that could launch a thousand fashion magazines, and probably would if she didn't live so happily in Karl-Marx-Stadt.
Italian skier Alberto Tomba, Witt's photogenic equal on the male side of the Olympic ledger, also cornered a share of the spotlight when he slashed through a maze of gates to win both the giant slalom and the slalom. Switzerland's Vreni Schneider burst out of the shadows of more heralded teammates to win the same races for the women.
There were two triple gold medalists: Dutch speed skater Yvonne Vangennip in the women's 1,500-, 3,000-, and 6,000-meter events, and skijumper Matti Nykanen, who won the 70- and 90-meter events and led Finland to victory in the team event. Tamara Tikhonova of the USSR had two golds and a silver in women's cross-country skiing, while other double winners were East German biathlete Frank-Peter Roetsch, Gunde Svan of Sweden in cross-country skiing, and Tomas Gustafson, also of Sweden, in speed skating.
Canada and the US had hoped to capitalize on the home-continent advantage. Neither fared well medal-wise, and ironically, each enjoyed a memorable figure skating result, at least partly at the other's expense.
In the battle of the Brians, America's Boitano held off Canada's Orser for the men's title. It was a sad moment for Canada, erasing any realistic gold medal expectations for those throwing this grand party. It was also a tough one individually, since Orser was forced to settle once again for a silver as he had in Sarajevo four years ago when he finished second to American Scott Hamilton despite outskating him in all but the compulsory figures.
If Orser's result broke some Canadian hearts, Elizabeth Manley's timely performance put them back together again. An all-but-forgotten contender when the Games began, the Ottawa native saved her best for last, uncorking a superb long program that gave her the silver ahead of faltering American star Debi Thomas.
Somebody in the Saddledome handed her a white cowboy hat, and suddenly Liz was just as much Canada's sweetheart as Karen Percy, who earlier had roared down the slopes not far from her Banff home to capture a pair of bronze skiing medals. Her performance, which also included a fourth-place finish, was not only one of the most surprising of the Olympics, it also gave Canada its only double-medal winner.
The Canadian effort produced an encouraging number of top-eight finishes, which had been a central objective of the country's Best Ever Olympic funding effort, but only five medals. The most gnawing shortcoming occurred in hockey, where once again the Canadians failed to earn a medal. Since Canada's real hockey strength resides in the NHL, national pride wasn't hurt too badly, but winning an Olympic gold - or any medal - before the home folks would have provided a nice lift. Some NHL players took a leave of absence to join the Canadian squad, but no arrangement could be worked out to get the league's best players in Olympic uniforms, even though they are theoretically eligible.
The United States, meanwhile, collected only six medals, two by speed skater Bonnie Blair. A seventh was almost secured on Sunday's final day of competition, when USA-1 missed winning a bobsled bronze by 2/100ths of a second during a four-run competition.
``Our performance has improved sport by sport, athlete by athlete, but the performance in other countries has improved at a faster rate,'' said USOC president Robert Helmick.
Of course the countries with the best GMP (gold medal production) are the Soviet Union and East Germany, which once again ran away from everyone else here with 29 and 25 medals respectively.
How can this imbalance be redressed?
One way might be through the addition of more westernized sports to the program, such as those designated demonstration sports here - curling, freestyle skiing, and short-track speed skating. They were added at the iniative of the local organizing committee, which went all out to surround them with an ``official'' aura to make them more meaningful to spectators.
Special medals were awarded and the top finishers were recognized along with the regular medalists each evening on the downtown Olympic Plaza. As expected, Canada did well in these sports, but in an encouraging development, 8 of the 12 countries participating shared the medals (the Soviet Union and East Germany excluded).
This distribution could help when these sports come up for an Olympic vote in September.
The tendency to wrap the Olympics into one huge entertainment package was perhaps even more noticeable here than at some previous Winter Games. There was a lot going on that didn't bear directly on the athletic competition - from arts and food festivals to roving comics and pre- and post-event entertainment at some of the venues.
It all seemed in good taste, however. And certainly the extras enhanced the total experience for winter sports enthusiasts unwittingly attending the first Spring Olympics. Grace, speed, and strength: Olympic best
Grace, speed, and strength: Olympic best ALPINE SKIING
Men's downhill 1. Pirmin Zurbriggen, Switzerland 2. Peter Mueller, Switzerland 3. Franck Piccard, France
Men's slalom 1. Alberto Tomba, Italy 2. Frank Woerndl, West Germany 3. Paul Frommelt, Liechtenstein
Men's giant slalom 1. Alberto Tomba, Italy 2. Hubert Strolz, Austria 3. Pirmin Zurbriggen, Switzerland
Men's super G 1. Franck Piccard 2. Helmut Mayer, Austria 3. Lars-Boerje Erikson, Sweden
Men's combined 1. Hubert Strolz, Austria 2. Bernhard Gstrein, Austria 3. Paul Accola, Switzerland
Women's downhill 1. Marina Kiehl, West Germany 2. Brigitte Oertli, Switzerland 3. Karen Percy, Canada
Women's slalom 1. Vreni Schneider, Switzerland 2. Mateja Svet, Yugoslavia 3. Christa Kinshofer Guetlein, West Germany
Women's giant slalom 1. Vreni Schneider, Switzerland 2. Christa Kinshofer-Guetlein, West Germany 3. Maria Walliser, Switzerland
Women's super G 1. Sigrid Wolf, Austria 2. Michela Figini, Switzerland 3. Karen Percy, Canada
Women's combined 1. Anita Wachter, Austria 2. Brigitte Oertli, Switzerland 3. Maria Walliser, Switzerland NORDIC SKIING
Men's 15k cross-country skiing 1. Mikhail Deviatiarov, Soviet Union 2. Pal Mikkelsplass, Norway 3. Vladimir Smirnov, Soviet Union
Men's 30K cross-country skiing 1. Alexei Prokourorov, Soviet Union 2. Vladimir Smirnov, Soviet Union 3. Vegard Ulvang, Norway
Men's 50k cross-country skiing 1. Gunde Svan, Sweden 2. Maurilio De Zolt, Italy 3. Andy Gruenenfelder, Switzerland
Men's 4 x 10k cross-country relay 1. Sweden 2. Soviet Union 3. Czechoslovakia
Women's 5k cross-country skiing 1. Marjo Matikainen, Finland 2. Tamara Tikhonova, Soviet Union 3. Vida Ventsene, Soviet Union
Women's 10k cross-country skiing 1. Vida Ventsene, Soviet Union 2. Raisa Smetanina, Soviet Union 3. Marjo Matikainen, Finland
Women's 20k cross-country skiing 1. Tamara Tikhonova, Soviet Union 2. Anfissa Reztsova, Soviet Union 3. Raisa Smetanina, Soviet Union
Women's 4 x 5k cross-country relay 1. Soviet Union 2. Norway 3. Finland
70-meter ski jump 1. Matti Nykanen - Finland 2. Pavel Ploc, Czechoslovakia 3. Jiri Malec, Czechoslovakia
90-meter ski jump 1. Matti Nykanen, Finland 2. Erik Johnsen, Norway 3. Matjaz Debelak, Yugoslavia
Team ski jumping 1. Finland 2. Yugoslavia 3. Norway
Nordic combined (team) 1. West Germany 2. Switzerland 3. Austria
Nordic combined (individual) 1. Hippolyt Kempf, Switzerland. 2. Klaus Sulzenbacher, Austria. 3. Allar Levandi, Soviet Union. BIATHLON
10k 1. Frank-Peter Rowtsch, East Germany 2. Valeri Medvedtsev, Soviet Union 3. Sergei Tchepikov, Soviet Union
20k 1. Frank-Peter Roetsch, East Germany 2. Valeri Medvedtsev, Soviet Union 3. Johann Passler, Italy
4 x 7.5 relay 1. Soviet Union 2. West Germany 3. Italy FIGURE SKATING
Pairs figure skating 1. Yekaterina Gordeyeva and Sergei Grinkov, Soviet Union 2. Yelena Valova and Oleg Vasiliev, Soviet Union 3. Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard, United States
Ice Dancing 1. Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin, Soviet Union 2. Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko, Soviet Union 3. Tracy Wilson and Robert McCall, Canada
Men's figure skating 1. Brian Boitano, United States 2. Brian Orser, Canada 3. Victor Petrenko, Soviet Union
Women's figure skating 1. Katarina Witt, East Germany 2. Elizabeth Manley, Canada 3. Debi Thomas, United States SPEED SKATING
Men's 500 meter 1. Jens-Uwe Mey, East Germany 2. Jan Ykema, Netherlands 3. Akira Kuroiwa, Japan
Men's 1,000 meter 1. Nikolai Gouliaev, Soviet Union 2. Jens-uwe Mey, East Germany 3. Igor Gelezovsky, Soviet Union
Men's 1,500 meter 1. Andre Hoffmann, East Germany 2. Eric Flaim, United States 3. Michael Hadschieff, Austria
Men's 5,000 meter 1. Tomas Gustafson, Sweden 2. Leo Visser, Netherlands 3. Gerard Kemkers, Netherlands
Men's 10,000 meter 1. Tomas Gustafson, Sweden 2. Michael Hadschieff, Austria 3. Leo Visser, Netherlands
Women's 500 meter 1. Bonnie Blair, United States 2. Christa Rothenburger, East Germany 3. Karin Kania, East Germany
Women's 1,000 meter 1. Christa Rothenburger, East Germany 2. Karin Kania, East Germany 3. Bonnie Blair, United States
Women's 1,500 meter 1. Yvonne van Gennip, Netherlands 2. Karin Kania, East Germany 3. Andrea Ehrig, East Germany
Women's 3,000 meter 1. Yvonne Vangennip, Netherlands 2. Andrea Ehrig, East Germany 3. Gavi Zange, East Germany
Women's 6,000 meter 1. Yvonne van Gennip, Netherlands. 2. Andrea Ehrig, East Germany. 3. Gabi Zange, East Germany. ICE HOCKEY 1. Soviet Union. 2. Finland. 3. Sweden. LUGE
Men's singles 1. Jens Mueller, East Germany 2. Georg Hackl, West Germany 3. Iouri Khartchenko, Soviet Union
Women's singles 1. Steffi Walter, East Germany 2. Ute Oberhoffner, East Germany 3. Cerstin Schmidt, East Germany
Men's doubles 1. Joerg Hoffmann and Jochen Pietzsch, East Germany 2. Stefan Krauysse and Jan Berendt, East Germany 3. Thomas Schwab and Wolfgang Staudinger, West Germany
Two man 1. Soviet Union (Ianis Kipours-Vladimir Kozlov) 2. East Germany (Wolfgang Hoppe-Bogdan Musiol) 3. East Germany (Bernhard Lehmann-Mario Hoyer)
Four man 1. Switzerland (driver: Ekkehard Fasser) 2. East Germany (driver: Wolfgang Hoppe) 3. Soviet Union (driver: Ianis Kipours)
NATION-BY-NATION SCORECARD Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total Soviet Union 11 9 9 29 East Germany 9 10 6 25 Switzerland 5 5 5 15 Austria 3 5 2 10 West Germany 2 4 2 8 Finland 4 1 2 7 Netherlands 3 2 2 7 Sweden 4 0 2 6 United States 2 1 3 6 Italy 2 1 2 5 Norway 0 3 2 5 Canada 0 2 3 5 Yugoslavia 0 2 1 3 Czechoslovakia 0 1 2 3 France 1 0 1 2 Japan 0 0 1 1 Liechtenstein 0 0 1 1