Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nagano, '98

While home on the weekend I came across my stash of Nagano 1998 Olympic paraphernalia. I was quite into those games, too, apparently - I made a fairly comprehensive scrapbook of the headlines and major stories as they pertained to the Olympics as a whole and to Canada specifically - from Jean-Luc's flag-bearing jinx to Rebagliati's loss and regain of the gold medal, Le May Doan with her medal and the Great One flopped against the bench after loosing to the Czechs.

This year at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, Snow (or the lack of it) made headlines daily during the first week - races were delayed, standingroom tickets were canceled, it was a bad scene. The question was constantly posed as to why the IOC would have chosed a city with such an unpredictable winter. I found this article from the 1998 Games to be quite ironic.

Snow a Problem

NAGANO, Japan (CP) -- Enough already with the snow. The weather dominated the agenda again with the Winter Olympics as heavy snow caused havoc with the slalom portion of the men's combined ski event and forced women snowboarders to adjust to the changing conditions. The snowfall also forced yet another postponement - the women's Super-G - forcing Olympic organizers to revamp the alpine ski schedule once again.

The delays have put Olympic officials on the defensive while athletes become more and more vocal about the delays and difficult conditions.

"I think to stage the Olympics here, it's really risky because everybody knew that Japanese weather is very unpredictable," said Italian skier Kristian Ghedina, who was 11th in the combined slalom.

"For athletes it is not good, because we are getting bored with all the postponements and of not knowing the exact day of the race."

While athletes from around the world unsuccessfully struggled against a brutal Japanese snowstorm, local hero Hiroyasu Shimizu did the smart thing: he stayed inside and won the gold medal.

The Japanese speed skater, skating before a pumped-up home crowd in the M-Wave arena, swept to the host nation's first medal of the Games with an Olympic record performance in the men's 500-metre speed skating.

Canadians occupied the next four places behind him, with a silver medal for Jeremy Witherspoon and a bronze for Kevin Overland.

Over half a metre of snow in three days has turned Nagano's mountains into a picture-pretty wonderland of little use to Olympic competitors.

"You want the snow because it's a winter event, but it's like, 'We've got enough, now, thank you,'" said U.S. skier Picabo Street, a favourite to win a medal.

Austrian Hermann Maier, the world's male top skier, almost fell in drifting snow during the first run of the slalom portion of the combined event. Only 21 of 38 racers made it to the finish line in two runs.

"It was chaos," said Maier, who was 8th after the two runs. "It was too difficult. I've never seen anything like it."

Rosey Flatcher, the first of four U.S. snowboarders to wipe out on the Mount Yakebitai course, said she was not sure the race should have been run at all.

"I just think for a high-calibre race like this, the snow conditions should be top," she said.

The International Olympic Committee downplayed the complaints.

"As the IOC, we are confident," said spokeswoman Michele Verdier. "There is nothing abnormal or unusual. The Winter Games are held on snow and ice.
We are confident that all the program will be held. We still have many days to go before competitions are to end."

Ko Yamaguchi, spokesman for the organizing committee, said refunds would be given to people holding tickets to postponed events. And officials made apologies for the postponements and even for the weather.

"This is quite regrettable," said Tsunekazu Takeda, sports director for the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee.

In cross-country ski action, Russian Larissa Lazutina became the first double medallist of the Games when she won the women's five-kilometre classic-style sprint. She had already won a silver in the women's 15-km race on Saturday.

She dashed home through a blizzard in a time of 17 minutes 37.9 seconds, almost five seconds ahead of the Czech Republic's Katerina Neumannova, who competed as a mountain bike rider at the Atlanta Summer Olympics. Bronze went to Norwegian World Cup leader Bente Martinsen.

An emotional Lazutina threw herself sobbing into the deep snow at the finish line as she waited for her rivals to complete the course.

Too much snow. Not enough snow. Either way, nobody's happy!

1 comment:

MOM said...

The more things change, the more they stay the same!