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Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Flames and Flickers: Fiji team starts at a party news services

PARK CITY, Utah -- While celebrating his 50th birthday with a few friends in the replica of a Swiss chalet he owns in Fiji, Toni Hauswirth had a tropical brainstorm.

"Maybe we should create a ski team in Fiji," he said.

Stigma of Atlanta
starting to wash away
SALT LAKE CITY -- Four other American cities are basking in the success of the Salt Lake City Games. They are the finalists to be the U.S. bidder for the 2012 Summer Olympics, and all say that smooth operations and world-welcoming crowds in Utah have helped their cause.

It's quite a change for a nation that had become an Olympic pariah. While the international support for America since the Sept. 11 attacks might fade long before the IOC votes on a host city in 2005, the bidders said they now have a much stronger platform -- proof that a games in the United States can be enjoyable, efficient and hassle free.

"If this had gone badly, then absolutely, it would have had an adverse impact on the chances of any U.S. city to win the 2012 Games," said Dan Doctoroff, head of New York City's bid committee.

By avoiding the glitches and gaffes that plagued the last U.S. Games, in Atlanta in 1996, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee has at least placed the American candidates even with Paris, Rome, Rio de Janeiro and other international bidders.

"Everybody tells you that the IOC carried some ill feelings toward the United States," said Susan Bandy of Houston's bid committee. "But this has been marvelous. We haven't given the IOC a reason not to come back to the United States."

The IOC seems to agree.

"I think the United States is back on a level playing field by virtue of the success of these games," said Kevan Gosper, an IOC vice president from Australia.

Say what? A ski team in a South Sea paradise, where the temperature averages near 80 degrees year-round and the only ice is found in cocktail glasses.

"There was a lot of alcohol involved," Hauswirth said of those who came up with the idea that December night in 1998.

William Gustafson
A possible future Olympian gets some practice in at the curling rink. William Gustafson, 2, is the son of Swedish women's curling skip Elisabet Gustafson.

Three years later, 21-year-old Laurence Thoms carried the Fijian flag into the opening ceremony of the Salt Lake City Olympics, the first and only athlete from the island nation to participate in the Winter Games.

"I felt pretty stunned," Thoms said. "All those people. It was quite unusual."

Thoms, who took up skiing less than four years ago, will compete in the giant slalom Thursday and the slalom Saturday.

Hauswirth, who was born in Switzerland and oversees a pharmaceutical distribution operation in South Korea, walked with the tiny Fiji delegation at the opening ceremony as the official representative of that country's government. As he heard the cheers, he had to smile that he'd pulled it off.

"I'm like that," he said. "If I have something in my head, I usually get it done, but it was a little crazy. I admit that."

Belarusian decides to stay awhile
SALT LAKE CITY -- Belarusian ski jumper Andrej Lyskovec apparently enjoyed his visit to the United States so much he didn't want to go home to Minsk right away.

Problem was, he didn't tell his delegation he was staying.

Lyskovec was last seen by teammates Sunday, sending officials scurrying Monday when he didn't show up to meet his coach for their flight home.

The team reported him missing to the FBI and local police.

"We found that he was not in the village three or four hours before the departure," said delegation administrator Natalia Kotlyarova. "Then we were waiting for him at the airport, hoping he'd come. We called his wife, but she also had no idea."

His wife finally solved the mystery. Police spoke to her Tuesday and she said her husband had called to tell her he was remaining in the United States for a few months.

Lyskovec was 42nd in the 90-meter individual jumps on Feb. 10 and failed to qualify in the 120-meter two days later.

Olympics not enough for Swedish female goalie
Now that Kim Martin has had the Olympic experience, the 16-year-old goalie for the Swedish women's team wants a new challenge -- playing against the big guys.

"I'm going to be the first girl in the Swedish Elite League," Martin says, referring to Europe's premier men's hockey league. "To play with the best guys would really be cool."

Martin, the starter for the national team most of this season, made her club debut for the Swedish women's team of AIK at age 13.

She tired of the women's league after three years and has played only three AIK games this winter, instead spending most of the season with Hammarby boys' team.

"It's fun to play with the boys. They shoot so much harder," says Martin, whose father, Fleming, coaches Hammarby's goalies.

Help from home
As busy parents know, a dependable baby sitter is as good as gold.

As Derek Parra skated to a gold medal in the 1,500-meter speedskating race, his wife Tiffany cheered wildly in the stands.

Afterward, she was quick to credit the person who made it possible for her to be there.

Tiffany's sister, Heather Stephens, was back home in Florida watching their 2-month-old daughter, Mia Elizabeth.

"She's been my rock," Tiffany said of her sister.

Police haul in tons of fake goods
Federal agents have seized tons of fake Olympic pins -- even copycats of their own official pins -- and confiscated enough clothing to stock an Olympic superstore with everything from baseball caps to $1,000 leather pants.

"We're making a significant dent in the Olympic trafficking," U.S. Customs Service agent Donald Daufenbach said Wednesday.

The haul includes tens of thousands of knockoff Olympic pins, much of it manufactured in Asia. Agents for the Customs Service and FBI got the goods from 58 seizures at U.S. ports and from Salt Lake City street vendors since the Winter Olympics opened 12 days ago.

The FBI has executed four search warrants as part of criminal investigations, though no arrests have been made so far. Selling counterfeit Olympic goods is a federal crime punishable by up to $2 million in fines and 10 years in prison.

In a show-and-tell session Wednesday, Customs officials displayed a tiny fraction of their loot. They covered a table with heavy bags of unlicensed Olympic pins, many of them poorly crafted, as well as hats, pillows, fleece vests, T-shirts and leather goods.