At Lillehammer, look for winter reruns '94 Games to have familiar athletes

February 16, 1993|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

Brian Boitano is coming back. So is Katarina Witt.

And 75 percent of the U.S. team may be composed of alumni from the Olympic Class of '92.

Welcome to the Winter Olympics -- the sequel.

In just 361 days, 1,800 of the world's best athletes on ice and snow will reassemble at the Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, Feb. 12 to 27, 1994.

The International Olympic Committee, in a move to unclutter its calendar and enhance marketing opportunities, has split the Summer and Winter Games and placed them on a new, alternate, two-year track.

The revised Olympic schedule -- adopted in 1986 by the IOC -- has revived some careers and extended others.

Most of the cast that starred in the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, will be back for more.

So you'll get Alberto Tomba on the ski slope and Bonnie Blair on the speed skating oval. You'll also get a veteran American team that is expected to equal its Albertville medal count of five golds, four silvers and two bronzes.

And, in a change designed to bring together top amateur and professional figure skaters, the sport's millionaire "old-timers" are able to apply for Olympic reinstatement.

Boitano, the 1988 men's champion, and Witt, the 1984 and 1988 women's gold medalist, have announced plans for Olympic revivals.

But don't go searching for many NHL All-Stars in Lillehammer. A proposal to stage a Dream Team tournament of full-time NHL pros apparently has been tabled until the 1998 Winter Games.

Still, the figure skaters who descend upon Lillehammer should provide a -- of glitter for these Games of darkness.

Located 465 miles from the Arctic Circle, Lillehammer receives less than eight hours of daily sunlight during the winter. But organizers have promised to put on a spectacular Games that are environmentally clean, competitively pure and, even at $1.05 billion, financially sound.

There will be no fireworks at the opening and closing ceremonies. Even Coca-Cola has joined the "green" movement by leaving the neon at home and unveiling carved wooden signs. But some environmental activists are calling for an Olympics boycott because of Norway's whaling industry.

The Games themselves will be compact because Lillehammer, a town of 23,000, is the smallest Winter Olympics host since Lake Placid, N.Y. (1932 and 1980).

Five other towns within the Troll Park Region also will stage events.

Nine of the 10 Olympic venues are complete, and test events, including last weekend's world speed skating championships, have begun.

But there are problems. Lillehammer is not blessed with abundant hotel and restaurant facilities, which means most of the 100,000-plus spectators will have to commute to the Games from Oslo -- a 110-mile, two-hour train ride away.

Norway's notorious prices also could pose a problem for those unaccustomed to average room rates of $130 a day.

And spectators won't be blown away by gorgeous Alpine scenery, either. The mountains near Kvitfjell and Hafjell resemble the Poconos.

But these Games will have something no other Olympics could claim -- the strangest yet most daring set of arenas ever built.

In Gjovik, hockey games will be staged underground in a hollowed-out mountain.

And, in Hamar, speed skaters will compete in an Olympic Hall that resembles the upturned hull of a Viking boat.

Looks to be a perfect stage for the old-timer Winter Olympics.

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