Too spread out. Too expensive. But not too crowded. That's what some Utahns who traveled to the French Alps for the 1992 Winter Games remember about the Albertville Olympics.
Members of the Utah Sports Authority, which is spending some $56 million in tax dollars on Olympic facilities to boost Salt Lake City's bid for the 2002 Winter Games, wanted to know Wednesday what the Games in France were like.They got answers from a variety of Utahns, including an Olympic athlete, a Park City Ski Area executive, reporters and the head of Salt Lake City's bid effort, Tom Welch.
Welch cautioned everyone against being too critical of the '92 Games. He said the complaints were a result of Albertville being judged against what Salt Lake City plans to do if chosen to host the 2002 Winter Games.
"I hope we don't develop what is a typical American attitude - `We can do it better and we are the best' - but rather, `We will do it in our own way,' " Welch said.
But even Welch said the Albertville Games were inconvenient, due to the scattering of competition sites and athletes. Salt Lake City is proposing a more compact Olympics, featuring a single athletes village.
John Callahan, who trained in Park City for the cross-country competition, said it was a mistake to spread the athletes among several sites instead of housing them in a single location.
Callahan, who had hoped his first Olympic experience would include meeting athletes from other sports, said the Winter Games were more like a world championship.
"I'm sure what the TV public sees seems like an Olympics," Callahan said. But for the athletes, isolated from one another in distant villages reachable only by winding mountain roads, the spirit of the Olympics was missing.
"There was not enough time to travel to see other events," he said. "I met a lot (of athletes) at the airport on the way home. You see them at opening and closing ceremonies, but that's kind of quick."
Deseret News columnist Lee Benson and KTVX Channel 4 reporter Rod Jackson both said it was difficult to get around even though there were buses and trains running between the widely separated sites.
Scott Nelson, a First Security Bank official and vice chairman of the authority, said he was surprised at how much it cost him and his wife for a pair of tickets.
Nelson said he ended up paying an American ticket scalper $200 apiece for two seats at the United States-Unified Team hockey game. That's quite a markup from the $50 face value.
Phil Jones, who runs the Park City Ski Area, said he and his wife found uncrowded ski slopes on the French Alps, despite a prediction there would be huge crowds. Many locals apparently just stayed away, he said.