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Paralympic 'chefs' enjoy smooth sailing at seminar

It's been smooth sailing for the 2002 Paralympics Chefs de Mission seminar so far.

So smooth that virtually no one has a complaint.

"This is one of the best, maybe the best, Chefs de Mission seminars," said Francois Terranova, vice president for the International Paralympic Committee. "It's very, very well-organized, and everything is going well."

Chefs do much of the behind-the-scenes work for the Games. They are appointed by their national Olympic committees and put together the teams, arrange accommodations for athletes and their families, and generally worry about the nuts-and-bolts details that make Games run smoothly for participants.

In addition to responsibilities common to Olympic chefs, Paralympic chefs have one more chief concern: accessibility.

Even there, high-ranking IPC, U.S. Olympic Committee and Salt Lake Organizing Committee representatives heard very few complaints from the delegations.

"We wanted feedback from the countries," said Xavier Gonzalez, the managing director of the Paralympic Games. "We're hearing good questions and comments and are collecting them."

Most of the questions deal with minutiae — details such as the number of washers and dryers in the athletes' village.

"These are the nitty-gritty details," Gonzalez said.

Chefs came to town Saturday and will attend a full slate of briefings and venue tours before leaving Wednesday. Sessions deal with security, accreditation, transportation, doping control, customs and opening and closing ceremonies, among others.

With their whirlwind schedule, the chefs haven't had a chance to see much of the city.

"I wish to have a little more time," said France's Jean Minier, of the Federation Francoise Handisport. But, "the organization (SLOC) is very proficient."

SLOC President Mitt Romney acknowledged that the committee won't be selling Paralympic tickets until it feels the enthusiasm wane for the Olympics. In Sydney, he explained, the locals experienced a bit of a letdown after the Olympics left, but they got out of their slump when they learned of the Paralympics and the tickets still available.

Additionally, many people see the Paralympics as a chance to see some form of the Games but without the exorbitant prices.

"It won't be $885 (for an opening ceremony ticket)," Romney said. "It will be a much, much, much smaller number."

If the chefs seminar serves as any indication, the Paralympic Games will be a huge success.

"We're very confident that with the strong support of the city of Salt Lake City, the state of Utah . . . these Games will be a success," Terranova said.


E-MAIL: kswinyard@desnews.com