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Archive for April, 2010

1998? What happened to 1996 Olympic winter games? Apr 21

About a decade before, the Olympic committee decided to hold the summer and winter games on alternating even-numbered years.  That was a good idea, I think—it spread out the joy, so to speak. Of course that meant that someone had to hold their games after either six years or two. So the winter Olympics waited six years after the 1992 games.

This was the year Tara Lipinski took gold in women’s figure skating, becoming, at 15 the youngest such in an individual event in the winter Olympics, breaking Sonja Henie’s nearly 75-year-old record from the second winter Olympics.

They went to Nagano, Japan. Nagano is most famous for its Buddhist temple, and a million people visit every year. This means that the area is well-adjusted to having visitors, and visitors have plenty of things to see besides the temple–a battlefield turned parkland, resorts, a sled run down a mountainside, even the Olympic venue is still there. If you decide to go, expect to be well cared for. After all, it’s Japan, the home of politeness.

Here’s a picture of that temple:

The temple is the largest wooden building in eastern Japan

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1992—Albertville, France Apr 14

Ah, France. Who doesn’t love to vacation in France? The Norwegians certainly had a good time when they visited in 1992—they took every single men’s cross-country skiing event. Two Norwegians took three golds each. Everyone had a good time, except Nicholas Bochatay, a Swiss speed skater, who died in a collision with a snow-grooming machine. Speed skating was a demonstration sport that year; it has not become an Olympic event.

Albertville is on the far eastern edge of France, deep in the French Alps. The town is not exactly flat—its altitude varies from just over1100 to nearly  6700 ft. So sledding down some of those streets would be pretty fun for the kids, if you could get rid of the traffic—the town has a population of about 20,000. Even though the people prefer to call themselves an industrial town, you can still find lots of sights to see, plenty of history, and wonderful French cooking. You can even try out the Olympic skating rink.

Albertville

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1988 Apr 09

The Calgary games.  At least three interesting “last” happenings this year: The last time The Soviet Union and East Germany dominated (both nations had ceased to exist by 1992), and the last time the paralympics were held in a different city.  How about a “longest”? The olympic torch run was the longest ever—clear across Canada, with parts of the run in every province and territory. The event had perhaps more citizen involvement and voluntarism than any games before or since. Private citizens could enter in a lottery to carry the torch for a kilometer, even. The torch itself also traveled by dog sled and snowmobile. Quite an adventure for a torch…

This is the event that the Jamaican bobsled team participated, winning everybody’s admiration. They became the subject of a movie, Cool Runnings.

So how is Calgary for vacationing? Winter weather is unpredictable. You might need shorts and a T-shirt in February. Sometimes. The Chinook winds don’t give much warning. Part of the excitement. Generally, you can figure on good winter sporting, though, with several good mountain resorts. The area has plenty of wilderness around. too, so it’s a good place to visit if you like ecotourisn. Downtown is pretty nice, too. Calgary is one of the biggest cities in Canada.

Calgary Before

Calgary Now

(Couldn’t resist showing a shot from the late 1800′s. Long before the Olympics were there.)

If you’re planning an overland trip to Alaska, stop off in Calgary for a little civilization on the way.

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1984—Big Brother? Apr 04

Communism was still “popular” and they experienced lots of unhappiness in Sarajevo, Bosnia during the years following, so maybe we can blame some wannabe big brother. But the games themselves were well-run, the event brought needed publicity to an attractive if poor area, and this winter games had several interesting firsts and onlys. For instance, a fellow from Senegal was the first black winter games contestant. Yugoslavia got its first medal (a silver). Skiing for disabled athletes was introduced. And Torvill and Dean of the United Kingdom earned perfect scores from every judge for artistic expression in ice dancing, a feat that no one has accomplished since. I remember watching that performance, and it was impressive. I’d watch it again.

Now the big brother part, at least as far as unhappiness goes. After the turmoil surrounding the fall of Communism, the area experienced so much unrest that it might not a good place to visit. I can’t recommend you visit the area unless you’re a missionary or a well-protected social worker, or willing to be careful. I wish those folks the best, and things have settled down a lot. They live in a lovely area that can be a good place to visit, but don’t get too far off the beaten path.

Doesn't this look like an interesting place to visit?

So put this place on your list of places to visit in the future.

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1980—the olympics nobody wanted Apr 02

I exaggerate—the public loved it, and it was a good event. But only two places even applied to host the games, and the other applicant (in British Columbia) withdrew before the Olympic committee finished voting. Lake Placid, New York got the nod. Sound familiar? They hosted in 1932.

This was the first winter games to use artificial snow. The first games attended by Communist China. First time someone took five golds in the same games (Eric Heiden, USA). And the last games timed to “only” a tenth of a second. The difference between first and second place in the 15-kilometer men’s cross-country event was 0.01 sec. Dramatic.

You already know that Lake Placid is a good place to vacation if you read the post for the third Winter Olympics. They’ve modernized the place since then, but you’ll still like it.

Tell us in the comments if you went .

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