The 1967 world two-man bobsled championship was history. "And tomorrow," said Amilcare Rotta, president of the International Bobsled Federation, "we start training for the four-man, no?"
Yes. No. One four-man sled, the Italian, made it down the course, and that was that. French officials made a desperate plea to competitors to keep practicing, but by now the sledders were ready to march on city hall with truncheons. Finally Rotta called it off. "Next year," he said, "will be perfect."
Next year, indeed. The Col de Poutran needs considerable work before the Olympics. How can it be repaired on time?
"The best thing to do with it," said Franz Kapus, "is to break it up and put it into trucks and drive it back down to Grenoble."
Kapus is the 59-year-old sledding expert from Zurich who is in charge of care and maintenance of the run, and Kapus knows bobsled runs: he broke his back on one in a spectacular accident at Cortina in 1954. He was a four-man world champion in 1955 and Olympic champion in 1956. The entire course, he said, is an $800,000 mistake. There is nothing to do now, he says, but rip out all the cement and rebuild it with earthen walls. That way mistakes can be repaired with shovels.
Gaudenz Gartmann, the Swiss Chef de Mission who had observed the construction of the run, said, "Plans for the course were perfect, but mysteriously, somewhere between the architect's plans and the finished run, something went wrong. On the curves the spaces have been changed and the whole thing is off enough to make it a monster."
"The best remedy for the course," says Fred Fortune, "is to dynamite it and start all over again. We tried shaving the ice down to eliminate the humps," he said, "and we hit solid concrete. Blasting is the only answer."
Prospects now are that the course must be entirely rebuilt this summer to satisfy all the critics and remove all the imperfections.
Meanwhile, the world's biggest, snakiest white elephant lies in the hills above Grenoble—the most unloved bob run in the world.