LATVIA RETURNS, BUT SMOKING STAYS AWAY
| ALBERTVILLE, FRANCE
* Latvians are pleased to be competing under their own flag again, and not that of the Soviet Union. The rapidity of political change makes it hard to stay current, though, and when Latvian athletes were welcomed to the Olympic Village here, the colors were wrong on the flag: red and white, instead of purple and white. "I had been waiting 56 years for our flag to be raised," a disappointed Latvian observed.
The Latvian Olympic Committee is distributing a brochure proclaiming, "Latvia Returns." It reminds people that this Baltic country was one of the 16 nations to participate in the first winter Games in 1924.
If the Latvians are happy to be back, photos of their 38-member team don't help make the point: Not a single subject smiles. Maybe the pictures were taken before independence.
* The local Olympic organizing committee here has taken measures to avoid exposing athletes and spectators to passive smoking.
"Smoking is not my nature" is printed on a thousand signs posted at the competition sites, and an anti-smoking message has been printed on the 800,000 tickets to the Games.
"This is a good idea, not just for the Olympics but for the image of France," says French speed skater Remi Ingres.