PADDING A MOUNTAIN
Don't think for a minute that the arrival of warmer weather has eased Lake Placid's problems with next February's Winter Olympics. Dr. Bud Little of Helena, Mont, is casting a midsummer chill on the tiny Adirondacks hamlet. Little is chairman of the medical committee of FIS, the International Ski Federation, and a man of unquestioned authority where Olympic safety is concerned. In an obvious power play, he warns that the men's and women's downhill races, the centerpiece events of any Winter Games, may be canceled.
At issue are plans for the evacuation of injured racers by helicopter. Lake Placid has provided a landing pad at the base of Whiteface Mountain, on the theory that crash victims can be tobogganed to the bottom of the slope before being airlifted to the hospital. Not good enough, says the FIS; there would have to be two more places for copters to land on the mountain for quicker evacuation.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which is responsible for helicopter operations on the mountain, maintains that landing near the racecourse would be unsafe. Lack of crowd control and strong winds that can cause blinding snow and possibly buffet a helicopter into lift lines are the main hazards. But Little says, "It's standard operating procedure in world Alpine competition to have on-hill evacuation by helicopters."
It is too soon to tell whether Little's cancellation threat will achieve his desired results. Strong-arm tactic or not, it should. Now is the time for Lake Placid to get cracking on installation of the extra pads before the mountain is buried in snow. A way to operate the helicopters safely must be found, too.
THE BIG RAINOUT
Barely halfway through its inaugural season, baseball's Inter-American League (SI, June 4) has folded. The Triple A league started with teams in six cities, but on June 16 the Panama City and San Juan franchises went under and now the remaining clubs, Miami, Caracas, Santo Domingo and Maracaibo, have followed suit, leaving a sea of debts and a lot of unpaid and angry players. Launched without working arrangements with major league clubs, the league suffered from shaky financing, nightmarish travel problems and a wet Caribbean summer. In what must be some sort of a record, its schedule was devastated by 70 rainouts—roughly nine a week.