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Canadians stoked to get gold back

From the halls of Parliament to boisterous ski-resort pubs, Canadians rejoiced at news that snowboarder Ross Rebagliati could keep his Olympic gold medal despite testing positive for marijuana.

Youthful patrons at Garfinkels, a nightclub in Rebagliati's hometown of Whistler, British Columbia, jumped up and down on the dance floor Thursday when the manager softened the music to announce: "Ross has his gold back.""It's awesome," said snowboarder Douglas Epp.

Whistler is Canada's biggest ski-resort town and a base for many snowboarders who were outraged when the International Olympic Committee announced its intention to strip Rebagliati of his medal because traces of marijuana were found in his system during testing in Nagano, Japan.

The disqualification was overturned by an appeals panel 24 hours later, to the delight of Canadians who had rallied behind Rebagliati.

"My reaction, like a lot of Canadians, was very positive," said Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, whose portfolio includes the Olympic program.

"He won the gold medal because he was the best, and I think for that we have to say `Bravo' "

Rebagliati said in a statement in Nagano that he hadn't smoked marijuana since last April but was at a party in Whistler with marijuana smokers on Jan. 31 and must have inhaled second-hand smoke.

LUCKY 13: After Japan's hockey team beat Austria in a shootout, the hometown fans went into a flag-waving, chanting frenzy. They did the wave while players raced onto the ice and then took a victory lap.

Imagine if Japan had finished better than 13th.

The victory Thursday was significant because it was Japan's first Olympic hockey victory since 1976. The Japanese had lost their first three games of this tournament.

OLYMPIC FOOT SOLDIERS: Olympic ski spectators soon might qualify for an honorary medal - in hiking.

Spectators taking shuttle buses to Alpine ski events will be let out at parking lots slightly more than a mile from the course. Previously, they were dropped off much closer to the slopes.

The change was made after bus foul-ups caused an undetermined number of spectators to miss Tuesday's women's super-G race. The delays came as thousands of spectators tried to reach the course on a Japanese national holiday.

Olympic organizers at a news conference apologized a half-dozen times not only for the bus foul ups, but for the continued bad weather that has caused almost daily alterations in the Alpine schedule.

UNHAPPY DRIVER: With drugs in the Olympic spotlight, American bobsledder Jim Herberich had some harsh words for international officials involved in the Michael Dionne affair.

Dionne, a pusher on the No. 3 four-man sled, was removed from the Olympic team after the International Council for Arbitration in Sports declined to overturn a drug suspension. Dionne said he had inadvertently taken the drug as part of a cold medicine, but was banned for three months for using ephedrine.

Herberich, driver for USA-2, called the whole scenario ridiculous.

"The international organizations need to do a lot better job," he said. "This doping test took place in November. It's absolutely absurd that this should go on this long. It should have been completely resolved by the beginning of January, when we were having our trials. There's no excuse for it taking that long."

Although the urine sample was collected at a World Cup meet in Calgary last November, Dionne's suspension was not announced until last week.

RATINGS GAME: Yet another day of bad weather delivered another night of low ratings for CBS.

The network, hurt again by the postponement of the men's downhill, got a 15.3 rating and a 24 share Wednesday night. That was 32.9 percent lower than the 22.8 from 1994 and 8.4 percent lower than the 16.7 from 1992.

Through Wednesday, CBS has a 16.3 rating, 33.2 percent lower than the 24.4 in Lillehammer and 14.7 percent lower than the 19.1 in Albertville.

The rating for CBS' late-night show continues to struggle, a 1.9 rating and a 10 share Wednesday, compared to a 3.5 and 19 in 1994.

TNT got a 1.3 Wednesday afternoon, 18.8 percent off the 1.6 from 1994. Through three afternoons of coverage, TNT has a 1.2, 25 percent lower than Lillehammer.

A rating point for CBS represents 980,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 98 million TV homes. Share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

TNT's rating is based on 73 million homes.

You heard right:

"You can register a higher rating by watching a Cheech and Chong movie."

- Glen Clark, British Columbia's outspoken premier about stripping the gold medal from Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati after marijuana was found in his system.

Fact is:

"Mini cheer horns," (tooters in Europe) popular at the ski venues are banned at the Big Hat hockey arena. Reason: Olympic officials decided their distinctive blares are too loud and obnoxious to be used indoors.

Possession isn't illegal, but they're no longer sold in the Big Hat. They come in all sizes, prices and in metal or plastic.