Gathering Olympic Alums

Medalists from '60s aim to reunite athletes for Atlanta '96 Games

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

OLYMPIC athletes who once shared a special experience may soon share the same cheering section. That is among the ideas floating around to unite ol' grads of the Games.

Donna de Varona, a swimming gold medalist in 1960 and '64, envisions a day - perhaps at Atlanta in 1996 - when past United States Olympians will sit together and root for the next generation of US athletes. De Varona joins 1964 decathlon champion Bill Toomey in beating the drum for the new Olympic Alumni Association, which the US Olympic Committee has formed in hopes of creating a support network.

``We have a treasure out there we have not tapped,'' de Varona says, speaking of the nation's estimated 6,500 former Olympians. To link them, a multifaceted program will offer everything from golf tournaments and social outings to joint travel, insurance, and financial plans. Atlanta's pool solution

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The thought of holding indoor swimming competitions in the depths of summer may seem at odds with nature. And certainly when Atlanta hosts the Olympics three years from now, July 20-Aug. 4, the temperatures should be very summerlike.

In what appears a compromise, however, the organizers of those Games have decided to build an outdoor pool with a temporary cover over it. This should placate swimming officials who opposed a strictly open-air venue because of potential thunderstorm-related delays and the danger of lightning posed to spectators sitting on exposed metal bleachers.

Swimming races were held outdoors in two of the last three Olympics, in Los Angeles (1984) and Barcelona last year. US Winter Games site

If the United States is ever to host another Winter Olympics, where would they be held?

Lake Placid, N.Y., site of the 1932 and '80 Games, is too small, and Squaw Valley, Calif., the only other American community to host the Winter Games, has neither the aspiration nor the facilities for a repeat of 1960. Denver had to back out as the 1976 host when funding and environmental concerns led Colorado voters to reject the opportunity. And the bid by folks in Anchorage, Alaska, who campaigned hard for the '92 and '94 Games, has dropped out of sight.

Ah, but there is still one community that may have the wherewithal, the civic will, and the proper setting to someday return the Winter Olympics to American soil. Salt Lake City, with the backing of the American Olympic community, has a committee working to land the Games in 2002, the first vacancy on the Olympic schedule. Park City, an international-caliber ski area, is nearby.

As part of its bid, Salt Lake City agreed to develop long-term training facilities for Olympic athletes as well as for the youth of Utah. A new year-round training center was dedicated this summer in Park City, which is fast becoming the US ski-jumping capital.

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