<
>

Flames and Flickers: Reporter learns naked truth

2/14/2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- A Canadian reporter found out just how
chilly it can be here when he was locked out of his hotel room
wearing only his birthday suit.

Francois Gagnon, who works for the Quebec City newspaper Le
Soleil, stepped from his hotel room naked early Friday to retrieve
a newspaper. The door locked behind him. Using the paper to cover
himself, Gagnon asked the hotel manager for help getting back in.

But the Crystal Inn management sent Gagnon packing -- with his
clothing.

"It was my fault. I didn't have to lock myself out of the
hotel," Gagnon said. But "I think they overreacted. That incident
would have been solved in 35 seconds in Quebec. He would have
laughed at me and opened the door."

Crystal Inn Manager Dave DeYoung refused to discuss the
incident.

Gagnon told The Ottawa Citizen that he grabbed the newspaper,
using sections of it to cover his front and back as he asked for a
key to his room.

"I tried to make a little joke and said, 'I'm lucky it was a
broadsheet and not a tabloid,' but they didn't laugh," Gagnon
said. "I told them I had nothing to hide."

Gagnon now sleeps at Baymont Inns and Suites a few miles down
the road, but he hopes to recover money he paid for the nights he
won't be spending at the Inn.

Baymont assistant manager Mary Fell will handle similar
incidents with a cool head -- but said she would have to ask for
identification before allowing a guest into a locked room.

First, though, "I would push him into the bathroom and grab him
a towel as quickly as possible. When you work in this industry, you
see a lot and nothing surprises you," Fell said. "And it's not
his fault ... well, it is, but it isn't. Things happen."

Gagnon hopes to show the world his best side from now on
because, as he said, "I've been the joke of the games so far."

First 100 drug tests come back clean ... even the snowboarders'
SALT LAKE CITY -- Olympic snowboarders have been tested
again for drugs and this time, dude, they're clean.

In stressing that there is no rerun so far of the marijuana
scandal involving a Canadian snowboarder four years ago, doping
officials said Wednesday that none of the first 100 urine tests
among all athletes at Salt Lake City had found drugs.

"The snowboarders have competed, the snowboarders have been
tested and all of the tests so far have been negative," said Doug
Rollins, the doping control director for the Salt Lake Organizing
Committee.

Americans swept the medals in men's halfpipe, while teammate
Kelly Clark took the women's halfpipe gold medal, the first
competition for the sport that has a reputation for recreational
drug use. Snowboard's parallel giant slalom comes up later.

At the Nagano Games, Ross Rebagliati of Canada tested positive
for marijuana and was stripped of his gold medal in the parallel
GS. But an arbitration panel reinstated Rebagliati as champion
after ruling that athletes had not been informed of marijuana
screening.

This time, marijuana is clearly on the banned list.

In addition to the usual urine samples, SLOC and the
International Olympic Committee for the first time are taking blood
samples from athletes in endurance sports such as cross-country
skiing and speedskating on the day of their competition. The tests
are designed to catch use of EPO, a hormone that can boost red
blood cell counts and increase stamina.

Rollins said one of the 900 initial screenings at the venues had
shown signs of an unidentified banned drug, but that further
analysis at the IOC lab found no evidence of EPO or any other
performance enhancer.

Caribbean can wait: Hnilicka answers country's call
SALT LAKE CITY -- Atlanta Thrashers goalie Milan Hnilicka
was going to spend his Olympic break in the Caribbean. Now, he's
heading to Utah.

Hnilicka got a call Wednesday asking him to join the Czech
Republic team after Roman Turek of the Calgary Flames dropped out
because of injury.

Even though it's a lot warmer in the Cayman Islands -- Hnilicka's
original destination during the break -- he didn't balk at a chance
to play for his country. He planned to board a flight Thursday
morning to Salt Lake City, one day before the Czechs play their
first game against Germany.

"It's a slight change in plans," Hnilicka said in a telephone
interview from Atlanta. "But that's OK."

Hnilicka was a backup at the 1998 Olympics, but he didn't play
as Dominik Hasek led the Czechs to a surprising gold medal. Hasek
and Philadelphia's Roman Cechmanek are the team's top two goalies.

"I don't know what's going to happen," said Hnilicka, who led
the Czechs to their third straight world championship last year.
"I didn't expect anything, to be honest. This all came as a
surprise. Obviously, it's a very pleasant surprise."

Ice man cometh to Olympic Oval
Marc Norman is the ice man at the Utah Olympic Oval. So why does he carry a fire extinguisher?

"They have CO2 (carbon dioxide) in them, which is a cold
chemical that gives us a chance to freeze the damaged ice," he
said.

If a skater falls and damages the surface, Norman hauls out one
of the two extinguishers he has. They are most useful for the 500
and 1,000 meters, where skaters are likely to tumble because of
high speeds.

"It does work, but you can also do damage if you do it wrong,"
he said.

Norman, manager of operations for the Olympic Oval, is a former
short-track speedskater. He's been the subject of media attention
for creating ice that's considered to be the world's fastest.

"It's definitely a little strange," he said. "You just put
the sheet of ice out there and these guys go out there and do what
they do."

IOC focuses on medical help for
athletes
SALT LAKE CITY -- While it fights steroids and stimulants,
the IOC also focuses on biomechanics and body weight. It's trying
to find ways to help athletes improve performance without drugs.

As the Winter Games move through the first week with no drug
cases so far, 43 researchers spread from ski jumps to skating rinks
videotaping competitors, running the images through computers and
comparing data in hopes of adding a meter here or shaving a 10th of
a second there.

The program, run jointly by the International Olympic Committee
and the Pfizer pharmaceutical company, has nine research projects
in Salt Lake City. They include the link between figure skaters'
flaws and judges' scores, the effects of weight loss on ski
jumpers' performances and the impact of the menstrual cycle on
athletes' success.

IOC medical director Dr. Patrick Schamasch said Wednesday that
the results of the research would be shared later this year with
coaches, trainers and team doctors.

"The IOC for a long time has been interested in protecting the
health of the athletes," Schamasch said. "With this research, we
can help improve performance in other areas without resorting to
drugs."

Todd Allinger, Pfizer's Olympic research project director, said
there were two "hot topics" -- quadruple jumps, the rage in men's
figure skating, and hinge positions on clapskates, which have
revolutionized that sport by allowing a skater to keep the blades
on the ice for longer strides.

Mormon church responds to negative media coverage
SALT LAKE CITY -- A Mormon official called media coverage of
the church biased and sloppy in an open letter sent Wednesday to
reporters covering the 2002 Winter Games.

While most news reports from Salt Lake City have been fair, the
letter said, others are "full of arrant nonsense and prejudice"
and prove that Mormons are still as persecuted as they were when
they fled to Utah in 1847.

Also Wednesday, the church criticized a Denver Post column
mocking Mormonism and the Olympics. The piece was pulled from the
paper's Web site and an apologetic column was planned for Thursday.

The letter was attributed to Alan Wakeley, director of public
affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in
Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, but was originally
written for a church-affiliated magazine.

Church spokesman Dale Bill said Meridian Magazine
editor-in-chief Maureen Proctor gave Wakeley permission to rewrite
her article "to address a few concerns he had about some media
coverage in Australia and New Zealand."

The piece criticizes articles written by the Sydney Daily
Telegraph and five other news outlets, including one written by The
Associated Press. It accused the media of "drive-by reporting,"
saying reporters have focused on polygamy, which has been banned by
the church for more than a century, or portrayed the church as "a
vast, wealthy, clannish and secretive empire."

"Unfortunately, when some journalists talk about members of The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they create a
caricature," the letter said.

The Salt Lake-based church has long been skittish about media
attempts to dub the 2002 Winter Games the "Mormon games."

After repeated questions about polygamy and other dark spots in
the church's past, Mormon officials mailed more than 3,000 press
packets detailing the church's history.

Silver lining
Isolde Kostner of Italy dedicated her silver medal performance in the women's downhill to Amnesty International.

"Amnesty International is doing a project together with me,"
she said. "There is going to be an auction on Internet online of
all my clothing that I was wearing in this race. This will benefit
a project which will try to end torture in the world."

Kostner was second to Carole Montillet of France.

Hometown transportation
When out-of-towners want to hop a bus to an
event, many of the visitors look for one from their hometowns. Some
900 buses were brought in from different cities around the country
to haul passengers at the games.

Some of the buses are easily identified by their splashy
placards, including an Ohio bus bearing a "Cleveland Rocks" sign.
Another bus beckons fans to balmy San Diego: "Flip-Flops. For
everything you can't do in ski boots."

Mayer Day
It was Travis Mayer's day in the New York towns of
Orchard Park and Ellicottville and -- most importantly -- in Salt
Lake City.

Last week, the Orchard Park Town Board declared Tuesday, Feb. 12
`Travis Mayer Day" to mark the hometown skier's Olympic debut.

The 19-year-old Mayer, who got his skiing start in
Ellicottville, celebrated his day by winning the Olympics' moguls
silver medal.

Mayer's parents, who own a cider mill in suburban Buffalo, were
with him in Utah for his Olympic moment. Back in Ellicottville,
friends shared in the celebration.

"We've watched him grow up at Holiday Valley," said Victoria
Brown, owner of the Ellicottville Depot, a restaurant popular with
skiers.

Isn't it a little early to be arguing about 2018?
It's still 16 years away, but a feud is
already brewing about which Norwegian city should bid for the 2018
Winter Olympics.

Oslo officials believe they should get the games because a
half-century has passed since the city was host. Lillehammer
officials insist they deserve another chance since the 1994
Olympics in their small town went so well.

"It has been 50 years since Oslo arranged the Olympics and only
eight years since the Lillehammer Olympics. I think Oslo is a much
stronger candidate," mayor Per Ditlev-Simonsen told the newspaper
Aftenposten.

Lillehammer Mayor Synnoeve Brenden Klemetrud told the newspaper
Gudbrandsoelen Dagningen: "Oslo doesn't have a good starting point
for venues," adding that the capital would have to use some of
Lillehammer's facilities even if it got the games.

A truce between the cities seems likely, since a joint
Lillehammer-Oslo application is considered Norway's best chance to
land the Olympics again.