Saturday, February 16, 2002
Soldier Hollow, Utah Olympic officials can't dictate which way the wind blows but when swirling gusts forced the postponement of the Nordic combined team jumping competition from Feb. 14 until Feb. 16, and the 4X5k relay from the 15th to the 17th, the decision left some Steamboat fans scrambling, digging deeper into their wallets, or both.
Some Nordic combined fans had already purchased tickets for other events Feb. 16 and 17 and were left to make a decision. At best, they had a chance to sell the tickets they did not use. But the real hook was the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's announced policy decreeing that fans who had already purchased tickets for the Feb. 15 relay would have to buy an additional ticket for $25, the same price as the original, if they hoped to attend the race on the 17th.
"It's weird," said Susan Solomon of Steamboat Springs. "We really wanted to be there and cheer for the boys. But we have tickets for the (Nordic combined) sprint competition next week and we want to see a wide variety of events."
The United States has four athletes with strong ties to Steamboat in the competition and with Susan's son Andy Garber, a junior Nordic combined skier himself, the family was extra excited about the race.
Susan, her husband, Ken, and Susan's children Andy and Jada opted to stick with their original plan to go to the biathlon Saturday. Today, instead of coming up with another $100 to go to the relay, they kept an Alpine skiing date with cousins and went to a bobsleigh event. They gave their Nordic combined ski jumping tickets to acquaintances from Steamboat.
The Solomon family didn't just miss out on the Nordic combined team event, they spent their first day at the Olympics cooling their heels while waiting for the final postponement of the ski jumping and never saw any competition take place.
In order to fully grasp the implications of Thursday's postponement, it's necessary to understand that ticket holders for Friday's relay were also going to see a women's cross country pursuit race in the morning, followed by the Nordic combined race in the afternoon. Some spectators who attended Friday's women's cross country race said they were told that had they not used the tickets for the women's race, they would have been honored today. However, fans were not advised of that option as they arrived at security and ticket lines.
A constraint working against Nordic combined fans is the fact that the cross country venue is already sold out for two men's races today.
Gae Pensabene, who was staffing a "Spectator Services" desk at Soldier Hollow, said Olympic officials determined the parking areas could not contain all of the fans who already held Nordic combined tickets, plus the spectators expected to show up for men's cross country. Nor was there sufficient time to turn the venue over between cross country and Nordic combined.
"Believe me, we don't like it either," Pensabene said.
Pensabene didn't say it, but the implication is fairly clear the additional $25 charge for Nordic combined fans amounts to a disincentive to show up.
Scott and Sanse Berry of Steamboat Springs were plainly thrilled with Friday's women's cross country race the second photo finish in as many days. But they were significantly inconvenienced by the postponement. Still, they hoped to be in attendance today.
"We're going to go home to Steamboat tonight (Friday) and wait to see how the guys do in jumping on Saturday," Scott Berry said.
Now that the U.S. team is in medal contention, they've decided to jump back in the car and drive five hours to Soldier Hollow in time for the 1 p.m. start today.
Original ticket holders for today's men's cross country races were in line for a bonus that held the prospect of a first-ever U.S. medal in Nordic combined. On the other hand, Nordic combined fans, a significant number of them from Steamboat, had tough decisions to make.