CALGARY IS READY
A strange and wondrous calm hung over the frozen streets of Calgary last week as the city put the finishing touches on its preparations for the XV Winter Olympics, which open Saturday. Brightly colored banners were strung from the streetlights, though a good number of them were promptly removed by local souvenir hunters recently infected by Olympic fever. Carpenters, bundled against the below-zero temperatures, unhurriedly went about their work at the Olympic Plaza, the hub of the Games, in downtown Calgary. Traffic was light, parking was readily available, and restaurants were ready and willing to seat diners.
Could this tranquility have been brought about by the 640,000 Calgarians collectively holding their breath, not quite believing that things were proceeding as smoothly as they appeared? What should have been the final, hectic hours were, in fact, so devoid of frenzy that the citizenry and the Olympic organizing committee—OCO'88—had to restrain themselves from declaring the Games a success before they had even begun.
Not even the discovery that some dastardly entrepreneur was passing off "tinny" reproductions of ABC-TV's Olympic pins as the real thing could dampen the optimistic mood. Citywide, the message was: Welcome. world, and let the Games begin—but don't be too long about it, lest our luck run out and a chinook blow in and melt our joy.
Chinooks, the warm, dry winds that come out of the west, are usually greeted with smiles in this part of the world. They herald a thaw, which can save the lives of snowbound livestock. Now the very mention of the word is enough to make Calgarians shiver in terror. As recently as Jan. 23 chinook winds gusting as high as 29 mph delayed the start of Canada's national luge championships, held at Calgary's Olympic Park, for some 10� hours. At nearby Can-more, site of the Olympic Nordic events, snow had to be trucked in from Mount Allan, where the Alpine races will be held during the Games, for practice runs.
Concern about unwinterlike weather was so great that in December white sand was trucked in from British Columbia and spread on the field of McMahon Stadium, where the opening ceremonies will be held. The sand, usually used in golf course bunkers, looks a lot like snow when viewed from a distance—particularly now that a couple of inches of the real stuff is lying on top of it.
The weather finally began to cooperate when a cold snap arrived two weeks ago. On Jan. 31 the temperature plummeted to —23�, the coldest recorded in Calgary in more than a year, and the mean temperature for the next five days was —5.8�. Round-the-clock snowmaking began, so a week before the Games all venues had ample stockpiles, even drifts, of snow at their disposal. Further, an additional 2.3 inches of real snow fell, dusting the evergreens and giving Calgary the look of, if not exactly a winter wonderland, at least winter.
There was something else in the Calgary air in the days before the start of the Olympics, something as warming, in its way, as a chinook. The local populace, for months skeptical about the Games' finances and occasionally surly about the dearth of tickets available to them, had come around and opened its arms to the world with guileless frontier hospitality. "It started with the torch relay through Canada," said Calgary Mayor Ralph Klein, who had predicted all along that his constituents would fall in line. "And it has been building ever since."
Hand-lettered signs along roadways urged Calgarians to be patient with visitors lost in the maze of one-way streets. Passersby asked if they could help if one so much as cast an admiring glance at the skyline. Volunteers, some in white cowboy hats and turquoise parkas, clapped out-of-towners on the shoulder, seemingly amazed that they had come all the way to Calgary. Or maybe the locals were amazed that they had pulled it off, that this town of big skies and bigger dreams will be host to the world for 16 days, whatever winds may blow.
USING THE OLD BEAN
Beano Cook was wrong. Cook, who's best known as ESPN's college football studio commentator, predicted in both the Pittsburgh Press and on his Pittsburgh radio show that the Washington Redskins would beat the Denver Broncos 41-10 in Super Bowl XXII. He missed the final score by a whole point.