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AVID INTEREST IN WINTER GAMES MELTED LIKE SNOW WHEN ANCHORAGE LOST TO S.L.

SHARE AVID INTEREST IN WINTER GAMES MELTED LIKE SNOW WHEN ANCHORAGE LOST TO S.L.

The community that lost the chance to bid for the 1998 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City last June has all but forgotten its unsuccessful, eight-year quest to bring an Olympic Games to the United States.

Organizers from Anchorage, Alaska - "America's Choice" to host the 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics - wept when the U.S. Olympic Committee voted in June to abandon their city and choose Utah to be the nation's nomine for the 1998 Games.But four months after the USOC vote that ended Anchorage's long-term quest for the Winter Games before the International Olympic Committee, little energy is spent reflecting on the city's unrequited Olympic movement.

"My impression is that it's been completely forgotten," said Lew Freedman, sports editor and columnist for the Anchorage Daily News.

"There hasn't been a word that I've heard in any manner that involves the word Olympics since the vote by the USOC," he said.

The fading image of the city's Olympic dream is in marked contrast to the intensive campaign to bring the Games to Alaska.

Since Anchorage was chosen to bid for the 1992 Games, which ultimately went to Albertville, France, and the 1994 Games, which Anchorage lost to Lillehammer, Norway, the Anchorage Organizing Committee spent $6 million on its bid.

Now, Freedman said he doesn't know what happened to the Olympic issue in the nation's northernmost state.

"I wish I knew, really," he said. "Anchorage is kind of a fragmented city because of all the people coming here from different cities."

The Games were the subject of "a lot of enthusiasm at the time," but also the target of a "significant minority" of Alaskans concerned the Games would intrude into the state's pristine environment, and "they were happy it went away," Freedman said.

Those closely connected with the bid say that while a lingering sense of disappointment hangs over the city of 220,000, the community is proud of its Olympic effort and confident that the endeavor, while unfulfilled, has bettered the state.

"I think our community feels that it was one of the most exciting and positive things we've done," said Rick Nerland, former secretary-general of the Anchorage Organizing Committee.

"Those who are timid and stand on the sidelines never know the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat," he said, adding, "We make no apologies for our performance, we gave it everything we had."

Although Anchorage never hosted an Olympics, becoming "America's Choice" for the Winter Olympics - a phrase Nerland claims he coined - has in itself focused worldwide attention on Anchorage.

"The outcome was very positive, from the outcome of giving us international exposure," he said.

Last week, Federal Express chief executive officer Frederick Smith, in announcing the opening of a giant international package distribution center in the city, said Anchorage would play a key role in the development of the Pacific Rim market.

Anchorage, halfway between Asia and Europe, is gaining a reputation as a central location for distribution networks, Nerland said.

"Part of that awareness of Anchorage's strategic location stems from our efforts to convince the IOC that this is a good place for the Games," he said.

Anchorage organizers have downsized their organizing committee to include only a board of directors and have refocused their efforts on bringing other sporting events to the area, Nerland said.

If Utahns reject the Olympics in the non-binding Nov. 7 Olympic referendum, Nerland said he could not say whether Anchorage would rekindle its bid.

He added, however, "there are members of the board, myself included, who would certainly put the question before the board."

And what of the community in Utah if the Games are scuttled in the November vote? "Life goes on," said Freedman.