Much has changed since the French Alps hosted the first Olympic Winter Games in 1924.

Those inaugural Winter Olympics, held in Chambonix, France, a town not far from the Savoie region of Albertville, featured just seven events - speedskating, bobsled, cross-country skiing, figure skating, ski jumping and ice hockey. There were 294 athletes present, 281 men and 13 women, representing 16 nations. The U.S. delegation was 24 strong.

By comparison, more than 2,200 athletes from 65 nations are in Albertville for the XVI Olympic Winter Games, scheduled to participate in a record 57 events. The U.S. delegation numbers 182, 50 more than in 1988 at Calgary.

*****

The French Alps again hosted the Winter Games in 1968, at Grenoble, a city of 200,000 also not far from Albertville. In the Grenoble Games there were 1,081 athletes from 37 nations who participated in 35 events. The U.S. had 115 entrants.

The United States team has had limited success in the Alps. It was shut out of the medals in 1924 and won seven medals in 1968, none of them gold.

The best U.S. Olympic finishes have been, predictably, on U.S. snow and ice. At the Lake Placid (N.Y.) Games of both 1932 and 1980, American athletes won 12 medals, tying for the best efforts in history.

*****

In a survey by USA Today, however, nearly a third of the 1992 team expects more than 10 medals in Albertville. Thirty percent of the athletes polled predicted at least 10 medals, and as many as 15. Ninety-one percent predicted a better showing than in 1988 in Calgary, when the U.S. won just six medals.

Also in the survey: 82 percent of the athletes said they'd be satisfied with a bronze medal.

*****

The reason there was no alpine skiing in the 1924 Olympic Games was simple: Alpine skiing didn't exist.

It wasn't until the Games of 1936 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany that the new disciplines of downhill and slalom were introduced, and then only as a combined event. The first slalom and downhill medals given separately were in 1948 and the first giant slalom medal was awarded in 1952 in Oslo - won by Stein Eriksen of Norway. The Super Giant Slalom wasn't introduced until 1988 in Calgary.

*****

U.S. Olympian Eva Twardokens has followed in the footsteps of her father - sort of. George Twardokens was also an Olympian, but as a fencer in the Summer Games. He competed for his native Poland in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, placing sixth in the sabre.

George Twardokens defected to America in 1954 at the world fencing championships in Philadelphia. He moved eventually to Reno, where he and his wife were ski instructors and where they introduced their only child, Eva, to the sport.

Twardokens, who got a PhD from the University of Utah, said at first he wanted his daughter to become a fencer, like him. "But in the wild, wild West of Reno, fencing wasn't that popular," he said.

*****

No town in America is better represented in Albertville than Norwich, Vermont, pop. 3,000.

Three U.S. athletes, including jumpers Jim Holland and Tim Tetreault and nordic combined competitor Joe Holland, are from Norwich. Beyond that, CBS jumping analyst, Jeff Hastings, a fourth-place finisher in 1984, is a former Olympian from Norwich; and Mike Holland, who jumped in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and is a brother to Jim and Joe, is yet another native of Norwich.

At a town send-off last week, Hastings jokingly said "it must be the water," and gave each of this year's Olympians a bottle of water from "Dan & Whits," a local store.

"One of the young jumpers in town took me literally," said Hastings, "and went into Dan & Whits and got his own water the next day."

*****

Imagine the surprise a seamstress in Tallories, a village near the bobsled venue of La Plagne, got when she was asked to alter the official U.S. team pants for bobsledders (and NFL football players) Herschel Walker and Greg Harrell.

Both Walker, who is 6-foot and 220 pounds, and Harrell, 6-5, 245, had to be issued pants with 40-inch waists so they would fit over their thighs. The waists had to be taken in to fit a 31-inch waist for Walker and a 33-inch waist for Harrell.

*****

QUOTE OF THE DAY: From the La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy, in anticipation of what Italian skier Alberto Tomba might achieve in "Albertoville:"

"In Italy there is the Pope, the president, the national soccer team coach, then Tomba. But now maybe we have a change in order."