Farewell to Calgary
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.Skip to next paragraph
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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.