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America's Winter Olympic effort points north to Alaska in 1992

Alaska in winter? Sounds like a pretty dark, numbing experience, doesn't it? That's the common perception anyway, but one that American Olympic officials apparently don't buy. During the latest meeting of the United States Olympic Committee, Anchorage was selected to bid for the 1992 Winter Olympics.

At first glance, this may have seemed a bizarre choice. But given the facts, it made sense. Enough so that after hearing the presentations of four communities, the USOC picked Anchorage over Lake Placid, Salt Lake City, and Reno-Tahoe as its bid city.

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``Realistically, the chances are good that Anchorage will ultimately get the Games,'' said USOC President Robert H. Helmick. ``They convinced us they are going to go out and get it done.''

But probably not in 1992. The International Olympic Committee, which will choose the site next year, isn't likely to return the Games to North America right after Calgary hosts them in 1988, particularly with six European communities bidding for the honor (Albertville, France; Berchtesgaden, West Germany; Falun, Sweden; Sofia, Bulgaria; Cortina, Italy; and Lillehammer, Norway).

Anchorage advertising executive Rick Mystrom, however, sees things differently. ``Maybe if the European vote gets split we can win the bid,'' says Mystrom, who heads up the city's Olympic contingent. ``And don't forget, we were the underdog at the USOC selection meeting and look what happened.''

The city's stunning upset was partly achieved by squelching some of the false notions about Alaskan winters.

``They attacked every issue and gave a dazzling slide show at the end,'' said Bob Condron, an assistant in the USOC's communications division.

Specifically, concerns about weather, daylight, and accessibility were erased.

Weather. Although the interior of Alaska can be bitterly cold in winter, a coastal city like Anchorage enjoys a much milder, maritime climate.

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Certainly, however, there's no danger of a thaw like the one that partly disrupted the Alpine skiing events in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia in 1984. Plus snow is plentiful in the Chugach Mountains that form a backdrop to the city.

Length of days. Anchorage receives an average of 11 hours, 17 minutes of ``functional daylight'' during the proposed February Olympic period, according to Mystrom. That's actually more than most Winter Olympic sites.

Accessibility. Anchorage is ideally situated from an international perspective. Thanks to flight routes over the North Pole from Europe, it is within six to eight hours flying time of most countries interested in the Winter Olympics.

The main drawback Anchorage may have is a lack of facilities. But even here, there may be a silver lining. Given the need to build ski jumps, a bobsled/luge run, and a speedskating oval, the organizers propose getting input from athletes in the design stage to ensure the best possible venues.

A beautiful, new arena has already been built, and though its 6,800-seating capacity is small by Olympic standards, it was built with TV in mind. And as Mystrom points out, ``If we get the Olympics they would probably be media-oriented Games''

Spectators would be welcomed,but they probably wouldn't come in the numbers that flocked to the Lake Placid Olympics in upstate New York. And besides, Anchorage would make an excellent ``studio Olympics'' given a time zone that permits lots of live coverage in North America, and therefore huge TV revenues. --30--{et

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