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Lake Placid, NY Feb. 17 (AP by Bruce Kekis)–Bruce Hornsby rocked the opening ceremonies of the inaugural Winter Goodwill Games with his hit “Mandolin Rain.” If only organizers could have bottled some of that rain and spread it around Whiteface Mountain.
Instead, snow, of all things, was threatening to disrupt the start of the games today. Nearly 2 feet has slammed the area around this picturesque Adirondack Mountain village since Monday, ruining what had been near-perfect conditions on the downhill course.
“We kept saying in November and December, when we were begging for it, where is it, where’s the snow?” Sandy Caligiore, media relations director for the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), said Wednesday. “Then we said, `We know when it’s coming.’ And sure enough, that’s when it came. Next week, though, the skiing will be great.”
The snow and low-hanging clouds forced ORDA, which operates the Olympic venues in the region, to cancel downhill training for the second straight day because of poor visibility.
“It’s not helping us right now,” said U.S. skier Daron Rahlves of Truckee, Calif. “We need the rock-hard stuff. It’s a waiting game, but you’ve got to be ready.”
Only one training run was slated for this morning before the first race. Sunny skies were expected, but more snow was predicted for Friday and Saturday, and there was no room to push back the downhill races, which carry the top first-place prize of $20,000.
Competition also will be held in luge, skeleton, bobsled, figure skating, short track speedskating, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, Nordic combined, ski jumping, and freestyle skiing.
More than 100 workers _ and a few athletes _ were busy carting snow off the skiing and snowboard venues at Whiteface on Wednesday. Crews also were sweeping off and grooming the new bobsled-luge-skeleton track at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
“The snow has affected practicing,” said snowboarder Rob Kingwill, who also had to cope with the brief loss of the U.S. team’s equipment on the way here from Lake Tahoe. “But we’re pretty excited to be here.”
Blazer said more than 40,000 tickets had been sold as of Wednesday, but thousands were still available. Figure skating, which will feature such former Olympic stars as Nancy Kerrigan, Katarina Witt, Dorothy Hamill, Oksana Baiul and Victor Petrenko, was commanding the most attention. Saturday night’s finals already were close to a sellout, but organizers were hopeful of strong walkup sales for all events to boost attendance.
A crowd estimated at around 6,000 attended the opening ceremonies at the historic hockey rink where Mike Eruzione’s heart-stopping goal beat the Russians at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games. Hornsby, Edwin McCain and the Crane School of Music Symphony Orchestra and Chorus paid a musical tribute to the theme of the games: “The Power of Sports.”
The Winter Goodwill Games, to be staged through Sunday, were being hailed as the biggest event here since the Winter Olympics that made Eruzione and speedskater Eric Heiden household names. With the newest combined track in the world ready for its first luge competition, the village remained hopeful of a return to prominence as an important winter sports host.
The winter games, also scheduled to be staged in 2003, 2005 and 2007 by Turner Sports, are an extension of the Summer Goodwill Games created in 1986 by Ted Turner. The 450 international athletes here will be competing for more than $647,000 in prize money. Proceeds will be donated to charity. SportsBusiness
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