Lillehammer, here we come

February 10, 1994|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Staff Writer

Sometime over the next two weeks, you will watch the Winter Olympics from Lillehammer, Norway, and see a skier traipsing through the countryside with a rifle slung over one shoulder.

As you sit there riveted, one hand groping for the Cheetos, the skier suddenly stops.

He flops down in the wet snow. He pulls his weapon toward him. Then he shoots at . . . something off in the distance as a voice intones: "We'll return to the men's biathlon after this word from Bud Light."

For the viewer, this is the moment of decision.

Do you endure another dreary "full-contact golf" commercial to see if an armed Nordic stranger brings home the gold?

Or do you reach for the remote with your greasy, orange-stained fingers and see what Urkel is up to on "Family Matters"?

Clearly, as the 1994 Games begin Saturday on CBS, most of America finds it must re-acquaint itself with outdoor winter sports.

Most of us did not grow up hurling ourselves off 90-meter ski jumps. We did not come home from school, throw down our book bags, and head out to the refrigerated bobsled run.

If we skiied at all, we did so without firearms. If we skated on a frozen pond, we did not spring into elegant triple Salchows as a bevy of solemn-looking judges observed us nearby.

Here, then, are 10 commonly asked questions about the Games and their answers:

Q: Didn't we just have the Winter Olympics?

A: Sort of. The last one was two years ago in Albertville, France. Now the Winter and Summer Olympics will be held two years apart, in order to cram as many Bud Light commercials as possible into the shortest span of time.

The next Winter Olympics will be in 1998, or around the time when the Tonya Harding mess is finally cleared up.

Q: Is there an underlying theme to these Games?

A: Yes. The theme is this: Some crazy hayseed whacked Nancy on the knee with a club. Tonya said she didn't know anything about it. Then she said she did, but only after Nancy's knee was used as a pinata.

But Jeff Gillooly, her ferret-faced ex-husband, told the cops she was in on the whole caper.

Poor Norway. Seven thousand years of winter sports tradition and we're sticking it with this garbage.

So is Tonya Harding going to the Olympics or what?

The U.S. Olympic Committee will hold a hearing on the matter Tuesday. If Tonya doesn't stub out a Marlboro on some USOC official's forehead, and if a grand jury in Portland, Ore., doesn't hand down an indictment saying she was in on the whole deal to cripple Nancy Kerrigan, she just might go.

Q: Boy, wouldn't that be cool -- Nancy and Tonya mano-a-mano on the ice in Lillehammer?!

A: Absolutely. According to CBS, a recent poll found that 38 percent of all viewers now plan to watch figure skating -- and not to see someone do a triple toe loop.

It's to see whether Nancy goes at Tonya with a garbage can lid.

Q: OK, what can we look for in Saturday's Opening Ceremonies?

A: Let's say they'll be a tad . . . busy. Quoting from the CBS Winter Olympics media guide: "The ceremonies will begin with a welcome to the world incorporating elements of Lapp and Norwegian folk culture.There will be reindeer, sleighs, a children's choir of 400, 72,000 flags, a philharmonic choir, 250 folk dancers, 150 fiddlers and the entrance of the royal family."

What, no Travis Tritt?!

Still, this baby could make the Super Bowl halftime show look like a junior high production of "Othello."

Q: Who are we rooting for in these Games?

A: Are you kidding? It is now actually against the law to root for anyone besides Nancy Kerrigan. She's pretty, articulate, comes from a working class background -- and some low-life took batting practice on her knee.

Less than a year ago, she fell apart at the world championships in Czechoslovakia, finished fifth and moaned: "I just want to die" with the TV cameras rolling.

Now redemption is at hand. According to the New York Times, a gold medal at Lillehammer would earn her between $10 million and $15 million in endorsements, appearances, tours, etc.

Q: Fine, who are we rooting against?

A: This is the whole problem with relative global peace. It's all well and good to have 6 billion people link arms and sway to "We Are The World." But then there's an international sporting event and you can't figure out who to boo.

We could root against the Soviet Union, which has won more medals (217) than any other country. But there is no Soviet Union.

Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Iran -- you can't find a Flexible Flyer in these countries, never mind a decent bobsled run.

Q: C'mon, isn't there someone to root against?

A: Just a guess, but if Tonya takes the ice, she might hear a few boos. As of now, there are no plans to strap Gillooly to a luge and parade him through howling mobs of Olympic goers.

Q: Will CBS coverage feature anything new, technology-wise?

A: Oh, you betcha. Let's put it this way: The Japanese are working on computers the size of your fingernail. The Germans are developing high-tech rocket fuels and sophisticated anti-pollution measures.

CBS is giving us . . . Goalie-Cam.

Honest. The goalie for the U.S. hockey team will wear a helmet that contains a TV camera.

Again, quoting the CBS media guide: "This technology will allow viewers to see exactly what the goalie sees, including the shots on goal and action around the net . . ."

Didn't Letterman already give us Monkey-Cam?

Q: Explain this biathlon business.

A: This event used to be for men only. No, check that. This evenused to be for insane men only. It began in the 18th century as a Scandinavian military exercise. Now both male and female competitors ski a demanding cross-country course, stopping four times to shoot a rifle at a metal target 50 feet away.

You should know that at least one cable channel will be counter-programming the biathlon with the provocative "Ernest

Scared Stupid."

bTC L Q: Tonya and Nancy in Lillehammer -- you think they'll talk?

& A: Give it a rest, OK?

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