Anti-Killy fever infected the Tarentaise, and on Jan. 26, 3,000 people protested his decision in the streets of Chamb�ry. Killy was stunned—and furious, and on Jan. 29 he resigned. He told the newspaper
, "I thought that the Savoie would be a single and indivisible front to face the Olympic challenge. I see now the Savoie is composed of pieces. That was my error in judgment."
Says Killy now, "If I had told the mayors at the moment we got the Games, 'You have no say over locations of events; we will move them where we think they will do the most good for the Savoie and for France,' they would have cheered and given me carte blanche. But things changed. Everyone had his own plan for the Games, and when I realized that, I was so disappointed and angry that my reaction was violent."
Barnier took control and patched together a compromise that gave Tignes free-style skiing and Les Menuires the men's slalom. "I never doubted that Jean-Claude would come back," says Barnier.
Residents of the Savoie were not so sure. Soon after he quit COJO, Killy began receiving apologies. Hundreds of people wrote letters urging him to return, a national poll indicated the French admired him more than ever. Lacroix and Goitschel both said they had spoken in anger and that they did not believe the Olympics could succeed without their old friend. Killy, however, was on a deathwatch, committed to his wife until the end. It finally came on Nov. 3, 1987, one day after their 14th wedding anniversary.
Exhausted and depressed, Killy was in no shape at first to consider his future. But gradually, gently, subtly, the two men he most admired persuaded him to return to COJO. Says Killy, " Chirac was still prime minister, and he said, 'You must be there, Jean-Claude,' and I said, 'Maybe.' " And Samaranch? "Well, he said, 'I need you, Jean-Claude; you must come back. We gave the Games mostly to you.' My relationship with Samaranch is such that I had to go back if he needed me." In addition, President Mitterrand sent Jean Glavany, then the director of Mitterrand's cabinet, to Geneva to ask Killy to return. Now Glavany is chief mediator between COJO and the French government.
So on March 11, 1988, two weeks after the Calgary Olympics, Killy returned to his position as the unpaid co-president of COJO. "Barnier wanted me to come back as advisor," Killy says. "Then he wanted me to come back as vice-president. I laughed, and he knew what he had to do."
Things had progressed well enough during the 14 months he was absent. The provincial infighting that many observers had predicted would flare up was nowhere to be seen, and even the major money problems seemed to be under control. Nevertheless, Killy's return as copresident lit a spark. In May 1988, CBS won the U.S. television rights to the Games with a staggering bid of $243 million—$68 million more than NBC, the next-highest bidder, offered. Killy, acting on behalf of COJO, signed a contract with IMG, and soon an innovative, high-voltage and very un-French marketing program went into operation. At first it drew heavy fire from traditionalists, but when big money began rolling in, the opposition died away. COJO currently has an impressive $100 million in its treasury, and a cozy group of 12 sponsors, elite French companies known as Club Coubertin, who have semiexclusive use in France of the Olympic logo. (A dozen or so official equipment suppliers are also allowed use of the logo.)
It was suggested to Killy recently that with things going so well, perhaps it would be fitting if he posed for a photograph waving an Olympic flag from a mountaintop above Val-d'Is�re. He shook his head and said, "No, I cannot appear triumphant. It is not the time for that."
Whereupon he took a seat on a rock with all of 1'Espace Killy spread below and rested his chin on his hand, in the manner of Rodin's The Thinker. "This," he said, "is more appropriate."