Spectator's guide to the olympics

February 05, 1998

Spectator's guide to the olympics

By Teri Johnson / Staff Writer

Spectators, take your mark.

It's time to see if your favorite athletes are good as gold.

Tonight's ceremony, broadcast by CBS in Nagano, Japan, marks the official opening of the 18th Olympic Winter Games.

Nearly 3,000 athletes from more than 65 countries will join the competition, which features 14 sports and 68 events.

The Games are a great way to beat the winter blues, says Dr. Robert Cirincione, a member of the Maryland chapter of the United States Olympic Committee, which raises funds to support the athletes.

"For a couple of weeks you can suspend your daily cares, focus on TV and watch a bunch of real nice kids represent your country," says Cirincione, a Hagerstown orthopedic surgeon.


CBS is estimating that nearly 200 million viewers in the United States will tune in.

There are plenty of reasons to join them.

For the first time in Olympic history, players from the National Hockey League will represent their countries in men's hockey.

The first Olympic medals in women's hockey, snowboarding and curling also will be awarded.

And in figure skating, viewers will be mesmerized as they watch the showdown between America's dream teens, Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski. Many people are predicting that the U.S. women, joined by Nicole Bobek, have a good shot at skating away with all three medals.

That includes Ann Gallarano, director of the figure skating program at Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex.

"If they all skate the way they did at Nationals, they certainly stand a chance at it," Gallarano says.

The men to watch in figure skating include Americans Todd Eldredge and Michael Weiss and Canadian Elvis Stojko.

Interest in figure skating has been fueled by extensive televising of the sport over the past decade, as well as numerous skating tours, Gallarano says. The sport has an increasing element of difficulty, and that keeps people on the edge of their seats, she says.

Skating's combination of grace and power is a big draw, and the finality of the sport is not lost, Cirincione says.

"You get one shot; if you fall, you fall," he says.

Other area sports enthusiasts agree the final Olympic games of the 20th century promise to be filled with excitement.

Joni Bittner, a Williamsport resident who plays in a novice hockey pickup league at Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex, says this Olympics will be a great showcase for hockey, and she believes it will attract people who don't normally tune in.

"It's the most exciting sport you can watch," she says.

Bittner says she'll be following the women's hockey games with great interest.

"I think it will come down to the U.S. and Canada," she says.

Snowboarding also will add some life to the Olympics, and people will be curious to learn more about it, says Roger Colvin, snowboarding supervisor at Whitetail Ski Resort and Mountain Biking Center in Mercersburg, Pa.

He believes the Olympics will change the negative perception some people have of the sport.

Snowboarding, which was a counterculture activity five years ago, has gained popularity with people of all ages, he says.

"People who have skied for 40 or 50 years are trying it," Colvin says.

He predicts that snowboarding eventually will overtake skiing in popularity.

"I guarantee it's not a fad," he says.

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