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Sunday, February 10, 2002
Updated: February 11, 7:36 PM ET
Sunday's Flames and Flickers

Associated Press

Medals or music? Parra not fooled
SALT LAKE CITY -- The medals plaza was packed with more than 18,000 people for the first presentation ceremonies, and silver-winning speedskater Derek Parra realized all the fans weren't there to see athletes.

"We're not sure if they're here for us or for the band," Parra joked as the Dave Matthews Band blared on stage.

Parra received a loud ovation when he received his medal Saturday night. The crowd cheered even louder when Matthews was introduced.

F-16 fighters intercept third private jet in Olympic airspace
SALT LAKE CITY -- Air Force fighters intercepted a private jet flying into restricted Olympic airspace Sunday, the third such incident since the games began.

Two other private jets were intercepted on Friday, with F-16 fighters escorting one to the ground at the Salt Lake International Airport and forcing another to change its route and land in nearby Brigham City.

"The good news for us is that there was no malicious intent," said Maj. Ed Thomas of the North American Aerospace Defense Command. "The aircraft all complied with instructions and landed."

In the week leading up to the Winter Games, a dozen small planes were intercepted by U.S. Customs Service helicopters for entering the no-fly zone above the Olympic Village.

In all the cases, officials said, pilots were simply unaware of the airspace restrictions or had failed to go through security checks at gateway airports before approaching Salt Lake City.

"Basically, they're pilot-education issues," Thomas said. "As much as we've tried to get out the word, inevitably some aircraft checked out."

The fighter jet interceptions came after restricted airspace was expanded Friday to a radius of 45 miles around the Salt Lake airport.

SLOC coordinator arrested for alleged drunken driving
KEARNS, Utah -- A speedskating coordinator for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee was arrested for alleged drunken driving at 1:45 a.m. Sunday.

Jan Van de Roemer, 44, was off duty at the time. He was arrested after failing a field sobriety test, said Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Doug McCleve.

Van de Roemer was booked into Salt Lake County jail on Sunday morning. A breathalyzer test at the jail showed his blood alcohol content was over the legal limit, McCleve said.

"Obviously, driving under the influence is unacceptable for an employee of our organization," said Mitt Romney, SLOC president.

Romney said the man was a recent hire. He would not say if Van de Roemer was fired, but said "appropriate disciplinary action" was taken Sunday afternoon.

McCleve said the man appeared to have no prior arrests.

Author Wallechinsky among four receiving Olympic Order
David Wallechinsky, whose books of results and tidbits have become some of the most widely used references to the Olympics, was awarded the IOC's highest honor Sunday.

The American author was among four recipients of the Olympic Order announced by the International Olympic Committee.

Others were veteran U.S. Olympic Committee member Irwin Belk, Australian Olympic Committee vice president Peter Montgomery and IOC medical commission member Dr. Eduardo Henrique de Rose.

It was the second batch of honors from the IOC during its stay in Salt Lake City for the Winter Games. Last week, Eunice Kennedy Shriver received the award for her work with the Special Olympics.

The order is awarded to those who illustrate the Olympic values through their achievements and contributions to sports.

Center handles problems big and small -- mostly small so far
When the Italians lost some of their luggage, Alan Shaw was on the case.

Shaw helps run Olympic organizers' 24-hour operations center, which monitors every major aspect of the games, from crowd control and weather at Olympic venues to complaints from IOC officials and Olympic sponsors.

He's Mr. Fix-It when the IOC wants more highways signs for Olympic venues or drop-off privileges at the Olympic Plaza.

The Main Operations Center occupies a corner of the 17th floor of a downtown office tower with a full view of the Wasatch Mountains. Here, before computer screens and a bank of televisions that can show 500 different camera positions, Salt Lake organizers, city officials, weather forecasters and FBI and Secret Service agents are keeping close tabs on the games.

For the first two days of the Olympics, a large screen that lists organizers' major problems was headed by the Italians' missing luggage.

No major crisis has plagued organizers' "mothership" so far. But Fraser Bullock, SLOC's chief operating officer, said "little nits and gnats" keep them busy constantly. For instance:

  • The IOC complains about bags being thrown onto X-ray machine belts at Olympic venues. "Apparently we've been a little rough and broke some things," Matt Lehman, the operations center executive, tells Bullock.

  • The IOC wants a highway sign for Snowbasin at a key turn from Route 89 onto Interstate 84. "What?" Bullock asks Lehman incredulously. "Either that was in the plan or it was missed."

  • Broadcast journalists lugging heavy equipment are demanding a special drop-off zone at Olympic venues. "But they'll get a full vehicle security search," Bullock says.

    Muehlegg misses important royal phone call
    The king telephoned, but Johann Muehlegg couldn't take the call. Muehlegg, a German-born, naturalized citizen of Spain, received an honor few other Spaniards have -- a congratulatory call from King Juan Carlos.

    Muehlegg was in the drug testing area at the time.

    He won the gold medal in the 30-meter cross-country, only Spain's third medal ever in the Winter Games and its second gold.

    "I'm really sorry I missed the call, but it was a tremendous honor that he tried," said Muehlegg.

    He did receive a telegram from the king saying, "This is a very important victory for Spanish sports."

    Condo flag display draws complaint
    Residents of a Salt Lake City condominium complex chipped in $11 each for 200 flags from 90 different nations so they could display them as a goodwill gesture.

    Two Taiwanese flags instead brought complaints and a visit from Chinese diplomats.

    Although Taiwan competes in the Olympic Games, its national flag is banned at events under a long-established agreement to placate China.

    Officials from China's Washington embassy visited the complex, about a half mile from the Olympics medals plaza, and asked that the Taiwanese flags be removed.

    "It took a couple of times for them to understand that this is private residence, not a government building," resident Annetta Mower said. "We thought the idea of the flags was exciting. We had no idea that it would raise any kind of controversy."

    Mower said residents do not intend to remove any flags.

    Embassy First Secretary Dizhong Huang said Chinese officials, recognizing the right of private citizens in the United States to fly any flag they want, will not pursue a complaint.

    So far, so good for drug tests
    So far, so good for athletes' drug tests. There have been no positives in more than 800 tests.

    Blue Finn
    When Samppa Lajunen won the Nordic combined, the Finnish flag he waved matched his hair, dyed powder-blue. He plays guitar in a band that also includes other members of Finland's ski team. The band name translates to "Guest Star."