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COUNTDOWN TO NAGANO: THESE WINTER GAMES HAVE SOME 'TUDE
Published February 2, 1998
The Nagano Games open Friday and the media has begun to arrive in Japan. The "most intriguing aspect of the Nagano Games may be a generational shift, represented by the prominence of under-30 athletes who come from non- traditional, even nonwinter, sports such as skateboarding and inline skating, and who carry nontraditional attitudes into the Winter Games," according to Jere Longman of the N.Y. TIMES. In some aspects, the Games "will more closely resemble ESPN's X Games or the Grunge Games than a traditional Winter Olympics" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/1). CENTER ICE: In Philadelphia, Frank Fitzpatrick wrote the "centerpiece of these Games could well be the men's hockey tournament" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/1). In N.J., Mark Czerwinski wrote that unlike the NBA Dream Teamers, "When NHL players take the ice in Nagano, Japan, they won't be trying to sell sneakers or jerseys or french fries. They're selling hockey, and the world is their target audience" (Bergen RECORD, 2/1). In L.A., Helene Elliott wrote "don't confuse" the NHL Olympic program "with the NBA's Dream Team debacles" (L.A. TIMES, 1/31). BUSINESS WEEK's Madigan & Hyman examine the potential boost from the Games. CBS will profile NHL players in prime time, exposure which "could give a financial lift to rink stars who perennially trail other pro athletes in the endorsement category." Agent Tom Reich: "The opportunities are going to be aggressively explored once the competition is over." A "mild success" could give the league a boost as it sets to renegotiate its TV deal. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league is happy with its relationship with Fox and ESPN, "but he wouldn't mind if ABC or CBS 'showed interest' at entering the TV talks" (BUSINESS WEEK, 2/9 issue). SHREDDING EVIDENCE: Snowboarding's debut continues to receive considerable media attention. Rick Gentile, CBS Sports' Exec Producer of the Games: "We think snowboarding is going to be popular this year. ... We're going to have some young people out there who are snowboarders, who are in that world, who speak that language" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/1). NEWSWEEK's Debra Rosenberg writes that CBS plans to highlight snowboarding events. But snowboarding "devotees fear that the sport could lose its soul in an Olympic avalanche of commercialism and red tape" (NEWSWEEK, 2/9). OUT OF THE PACK: In N.Y., Wayne Coffey offered his four U.S. "budding stars to watch" in Nagano: Women's ice hockey assistant captain Karyn Bye; Slalom skier Kristina Koznick; Luge teammates Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin and speedskater Casey FitzRandolph (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/1). NEWSWEEK's Mark Starr writes that while new sports "may provide much of the excitement" -- men and women's ice hockey and snowboarding -- Michelle Kwan "appears destined for the Games' greatest glory" (NEWSWEEK, 2/9 issue).