A lookback at the Salt Lake City Olympics

Posted: Monday, February 25, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- They were billed as "The Comeback Games," a chance for America to show its post-Sept. 11 resolve, a chance for the Olympics to wash away the scandals that brought the Games to Salt Lake City.

Oh, well. One out of two isn't bad.

We had Skategate, protests, the Russians threatening to pull out, more protests, failed drug tests and more protests.

So this morning you can look at this torch as half lighted or half extinguished. Maybe I'm naive, but I prefer the former. This is an event that brings out all that is good _ and bad _ about sports. And, in the end, the good always shines brighter than the bad.

The Games are strong. The Games have survived Hitler, commercialism, terrorism in Munich, a bomb in Atlanta and NBC's tape delays in Sydney.

They will survive French judges and Canadian pairs.

I will try to forget much about these Games. But I will try to remember much more.

I will remember Grizzly, the 1.9-mile, elevator-shaft drop of a downhill run.

I will remember Chris Klug, 18 months after a liver transplant, pulling out a bronze; Jim Shea Jr., winning the skeleton with a photo of his grandfather in his helmet; Brian Shimer, in his fifth Olympics, finally getting a medal.

I will remember how much fun everyone, including the athletes, seemed to have once you got away from hockey, figure skating and the Main Press Center.

I will try to forget the IOC press conferences and remember the one with Aussie aerialist Alisa Camplin. "Can I tell you a secret?" she said, confessing that she wiped out on the tiny slope leading to the press tent.

I will remember Bonnie Blair, standing in the top row of the stands, frantically ringing a cow bell just like any other fan excited about the U.S. haul of speedskating medals.

I will remember sitting in my hotel room during Opening Ceremonies, hearing the sound of silence as the tattered flag from the World Trade Center was carried into the stadium.

I will remember snowboarder Kelly Clark, on her way to giving the U.S. its first gold of the Games, coming down the hill in her next-to-last run to AC/DC. (ITALICS) She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean ... (END)

I will remember the story of Francois Gagnon, a reporter from a newspaper in Quebec City who stepped outside his hotel room to pick up his USA Today and heard the door shut behind him, which wouldn't have been too big a deal if he had been wearing any clothes. Gagnon calmly covered himself with the paper, went down to the front desk and got a new key.

I will remember walking past a wall with the daily newspapers from all over the world and seeing headlines such as this in Sweden's Sporten when the country's hockey team fell to Belarus: "Syldiga: De Suek Sittland!"

(The translation, I believe, is: "Boselli to the Texans!")

I will remember the night that China's Yang Yang beat China's Yang Yang.

I will remember the brilliant blue sky, the blinding sunshine and the ever-friendly Utahns.

I will remember that for 17 days, it really wasn't so much about who won. It was about who didn't. Terrorists.

I will remember that these Games, for all their flaws, were so much better than the ones in Atlanta. And I will remember the response of snowboarder Jonny Moseley when asked what he would do if he woke up tomorrow as IOC president.

"Sleep late," he said.

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