Faces in the Crowd
Security delays are leaving some spectators out in the cold
Athletes have also noticed the delays. U.S. figure skater Todd Eldredge, competing at his third Games, recalled going through seven checkpoints to get into the athletes' village. "Given the times, I can't say that I mind it," Eldredge says. "Safety is more important than time."
Others have been less forgiving. "I'm at my fourth Olympics, but nobody has ever searched by personal belongings this way," Russian cross-country skier Larissa Lazutina said Saturday. "What they're doing is a terrible put-down."
Traffic on Saturday night at the combined entrance to the Olympic Medals Plaza and the Salt Lake Ice Center was badly bottlenecked. During the pairs short program the world's top four couples -- Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia, Jamie Salé and David Pelletier of Canada, Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China and Russia's Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin -- had all finished skating before the sold-out arena was more than half full.
SLOC president Mitt Romney admitted to SI that the scene outside the plaza's security checks was "simply unsatisfactory" at what has otherwise been a smoothly run Games. To help ease congestion, Romney met with Secret Service Director Brian Stafford and Utah Public Safety commissioner Robert Flowers and adjusted procedures so that spectators holding tickets to figure skating will now go through detectors serving only the Olympic Ice Center and not get caught behind the thousands waiting to watch the medals plaza presentations and musical performances. "Day after day we have a chance to get better," said Romney. "This is going to take longer than people are used to. Those are the realities of a major international security event."
Proud to Be Last
There's no agony of defeat for Irish skier Paul Patrick Schwarzacher-Joyce. He's just a nice guy who almost always finishes last, as he did in yesterday's downhill. Crossing the finish line more than 15 seconds behind winner Fritz Strobl of Austria, he delighted fans when he flung up his arms in exultation and pumped his fists in the air. "The Olympics aren't about winning," he says. "They're about competing. I'm proud to be last."
Schwarzacher-Joyce, a 29-year-old graduate student at Salzburg University, is no newcomer to skiing. He has been, literally, bouncing around the World Cup circuit for six years, finishing far back just about every time he's pointed himself down a hill. He's also an Olympic veteran; in Nagano he finished 15th, and last, in the combined and 27th out of 28 finishers in the downhill. He will race in the combined on Wednesday and the Super G on Saturday.
The son of an Irish mother and an Austrian father, Schwarzacher-Joyce grew up in Ireland but spent winters in Austria, where he learned to ski. He now lives in St. Anton but visits his sister in Dublin every summer. He also keeps some Irish traditions wherever he goes. After his run yesterday he repaired to the ski lodge with some members of the Irish Olympic Committee. "We just had a quick pint," he said. "I can't have too much. I've got to race twice more."
The Way of the Gun
What Kristina Sabasteanski saw as she walked back to her apartment at the Homestead resort in Midway, Utah, from dinner last week would have had most people dialing 911. In window after window she could see figures standing and pointing rifles at the wall.
"I guess that would look pretty strange to a civilian," says the 32-year-old U.S. biathlete, "but it's an important part of our training."
Sabasteanski is talking about "dry-firing" (going through the motions of target shooting without ammunition), which biathletes do as a kind of bonding ritual with their weapons.
One spot where that bonding won't be taking place is the Olympic Village. The .22 caliber rifles are not allowed in the village, where one quarter of the biathletes are housed. The U.S. team is one of numerous squads staying closer to Soldier Hollow, with no restriction on weapons. (Ammunition, though, is kept under lock at Soldier Hollow.)
For Sabasteanski, having access to her beloved Anschutz rifle 24 hours a day is essential. "I'll be watching TV, and when a commercial comes on, I'll run and grab my gun," she says. "People might think it's strange, but it's so important to my success as a biathlete."