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Sunday's Flames and Flickers

2/11/2002

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."