The eyes have it
America’s first Golden Girl a welcome visionPosted: Sunday February 10, 2002 8:31 PM
Updated: Monday February 11, 2002 4:30 PM
For much of the past three days, I was confined to a tiny hotel room several miles from the nearest Olympic venue -- and several million miles from my usual vantage point in front of CNN’s cameras. Patches covered my eyes and pain darkened my mood, the result of severely burned corneas that transformed the excitement of this assignment into the anxieties of the unknown.
Thankfully, I awakened Sunday morning to the colors -- distorted as they still may be -- and pageantry of an Olympic games which, for this reporter, officially began with Austrian policeman Fritz Strobl’s grand larceny of the men’s downhill from countryman Stephan Eberharter.
It was there that the “official” sidebar storyline of all Olympic games surfaced here for the first time -- the dreaded, hellacious traffic jam. Many fans arose before dawn for their mountainous sojourn to Snowbasin to witness one of the Games’ signature events . . . only to arrive several exasperating hours later and long after the top contenders had completed their runs.
Kelly Clark, 18 years old on her birth certificate but about 12 in person, told me she “threw it down” in her final, exhilarating Gold Medal run because “I never would’ve forgiven myself if I didn’t leave everything I had out there.”
What makes snowboarding so cool (other than the lingo, of course), is the fact that Clark said she was able to hear the roar of the partisan crowd "even though I had my headphones on and had the music cranked up all the way."
Headphones? During a Gold Medal run?
Clark, who started a snowboarding club at her Vermont grade school when she was in the fourth grade, seemed genuinely overwhelmed after her acceptance into an even more exclusive club -- Olympic champion.
But the most poignant snapshot of my “return from the optic abyss” came just as the sun was setting and the winter chill was settling in. A small delegation of athletes and administrators, adorned in dark blue sweat suits, was posing for pictures, signing autographs and soaking up the evening’s ambience.
On the backs of those sweat suits was one word: IRAN. A country that sent only two athletes to these Games: alpine skier Bagher Kahlor and cross-country skier Mostafa Mirhashemi. A country that President Bush included last week in his “Axis of Evil” designation of terror-supporting nations.
Yet at this moment, I saw no evil. And that, for me, was a most welcome sight for sore eyes.
CNN/Sports Illustrated reporter John Giannone is in Utah covering the Games.