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A SHOOK-UP TOWN'S GREAT SHAPE-UP
Jack Olsen
November 13, 1967
'We survived all the wars only to be destroyed by the Olympics,' says the citizen in the street in Grenoble. But, spurred to action by last winter's debacle and a wrathful voice from the top, the Olympic city has moved mountains and men to get ready for the Games
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November 13, 1967

A Shook-up Town's Great Shape-up

'We survived all the wars only to be destroyed by the Olympics,' says the citizen in the street in Grenoble. But, spurred to action by last winter's debacle and a wrathful voice from the top, the Olympic city has moved mountains and men to get ready for the Games

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In fact, the bob run at Alpe d'Huez was so bad as to be almost unusable. Its curves were too narrow and tight, and there were sharp drops coming out of turns that tended to send the sleds into uncontrollable spins. The layout dropped 459 feet in less than a mile and included a labyrinth, six hairpins or near-hairpins and four high-speed curves, and practically every foot of the chute was flawed in one way or another. During the four-man bob trials, only the Italian team was able to get to the bottom. The two-man runs produced so many injuries that the French press took to calling the event "un massacre." To round off the glorious bobsled meeting, little Alpe d'Huez began living up to its reputation as the world's sunniest ski resort, and every afternoon the course was turned into tapioca. The authorities took a brief fling at holding the runs at night, under an eerie glow from sodium-vapor lamps, but finally gave up and canceled the whole card. Said the maintenance foreman: "The course is an $800,000 mistake. The best thing to do with it is break it up and put it into trucks and drive it back down to Grenoble." The American racing veteran Fred Fortune had a simpler solution: "Blasting!"

But the French neither broke up the course nor blasted. "We managed to change the entire profile of the run, and it only cost a few hundred thousand dollars," said Paul Briglia. "We found that we could correct the worst turns by simply widening them, by adding concrete up the sides. We also banked the course as little as a few inches and as much as four feet more. This means that the bobsledders will have a multiple choice of risks, just like the downhill skiers. Teams that want to take the most direct line can take it. Others can go farther up the wall and use the banks more. It will slow their time, but at least they'll get down."

As a final correction, the French built three refrigerating units into the course. "Now it doesn't matter what the sun does," said Briglia. "The run will stay frozen even in temperatures of 100�. No, that has never been done before, but then we are doing a lot of things that have never been done before."

What problems remain?

"One little item," said Dr. Robert Heraud. "We call it neige. You call it snow."

In the Place Victor Hugo, a pleasant little square surrounded by the honk and holler of growing Grenoble, the citizens gathered in knots and scanned the sky for snow. "It is coming soon," said the little old lady. "I feel it in the toes." All the cronies nodded assent, because the little old lady's toes could not be wrong, must not be wrong, about such an important matter.

In his office in the gleaming new city hall, a member of Mayor Hubert Dubedout's staff looked westward into a cloudless sky and said, "What can be done is done. Maintenant c'est dans les mains du Grand Seignuer. Now it is in the hands of God. The rest we did ourselves."

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