For Americans, the opportunity to combine European travel and the Olympics won't get any better than 1992, when the winter games will be held in the French Alps and the summer games in Barcelona, Spain.
It will be the last year in which both the summer and winter games are staged the same year. The winter games then will move to the alternate biennials, starting in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway. The next stop for the summer games will be in Atlanta in 1996.
Both the French Alps and the Mediterranean seaport of Barcelona are tourist destinations of their own; the addition of the Olympic Games either adds to their lure or detracts from it, depending on your affinity for competition and congestion.
The important thing for Americans to know is that the next three months will be the best -- perhaps the only -- chance to nail down tickets and accommodations for the games.
The Olympic Games have but one ticket outlet in the United States: the Olson TravelWorld agency in El Segundo, Calif. It is LTC accepting inquiries for a lottery it will run to distribute tickets to both the summer and winter games.
To get on Olson's list, call (800) 874-1992 (you can also consult local travel agencies for Olympics information). Ticket application forms are expected to be mailed later this month for the winter games and in June for the summer games.
As of now, no prices or ticket allotments have been released by the host nation committees. Olson promises an equitable distribution to those who have signed up.
Traditionally, accommodations have been more of a problem than tickets, unless you are willing to gamble on space being available at the last minute, as it was in Los Angeles and Seoul for the past two summer games.
In the past, tour operators reserved every room they could and the word was spread that there wasn't a room available within 100 miles. (That happened in Los Angeles and Seoul for the Olympic Games and in Seattle last year for the Goodwill Games.) the end, however, some tour packages go unsold and rooms become available.
A call to the Spanish tourist agency in Los Angeles gets a "we don't know" response about accommodations in Barcelona for the period of the games.
Olson TravelWorld, in its brochure advertising packages to the summer and winter games, says, "hotels are reserved two to three years in advance of the Olympic Games for the great number of international Olympic delegates, sports and media representatives who attend in an official capacity. Most hotels are also obliged to provide rooms for their regular tourist and business clientele. The result is an extremely heavy demand when the needs of the visiting spectators are included."
Olson then outlined a one-week stay in beachfront hotels an hour from Barcelona with a "land only" price tag of $3,000, or about $425 a day for hotel and transportation to the Olympic transportation system. No air fare and no Olympic tickets are included in this package.
Will there be small, non-glossy hotels in Barcelona with vacancies during the summer games? (The Summer Games run from July 25 to Aug. 9, 1992.) Probably, but it is always a gamble. Certainly within an hour's drive of Barcelona there ought to be something.
The French Alps present a different problem.
This is not the Winter Olympics as staged in a city such as in Calgary, but the return to a chalet-sized Olympics, much as the Olympics were when they were held in nearby Chamonix. Or even in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Powder Ski Tours -- (800) 888-6262 -- in Mission Viejo, Calif., is offering lodging and lift tickets that will include some alpine Olympic ski events.
A four-night stay at the Winter Olympics is listed at $1,400 each for an apartment shared by two people.
While the Winter Olympics (Feb. 8-23, 1992) are scheduled officially into the small (18,000-population) railroad junction of Albertville, all but the opening and closing ceremonies and the skating will be held up to 50 miles away in glamorous and established French ski resorts.