Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 26, 1998

L’Observateur / February 26, 1998

The closing ceremonies are always one of the most emotional moments of an Olympic Games. The extinguishing of the flame symbolizes the finalityof the event.

But the closing ceremonies also demonstrate all that is good about the Games as well, especially at the end when all the athletes come out of the stands to celebrate together.

It is a time for them to relieve the stress of all the work they have put into making it to the Olympics, to say goodbye to the friends they have made over the prior weeks and to thank the host country.

That one night also symbolized the good and bad moments of the Nagano Games for the United States.

First, the bad. Where were the members of the U.S. Men’s hockey teamduring the festivities? Probably back in the States sulking about failing to win a medal after being predicted to bring home the Gold. All they broughthome was the bill for the damage that some team members caused to their rooms in the Olympic Village before they left.

This was a team that did not seemed to want to be in Japan from the moment it stepped off the plane. “Let’s get it over with” seemed to be itsattitude from the start.

And when it was all over with, after the United States fell to the Czech Republic to be eliminated from medal competition, you had Keith Tkachuk, an alternative captain, calling the experience “a waste of time.” Nice attitude, guys. The United States’ problem was sending some NHLmembers who played hockey for money but cannot be considered professionals.

There were hundreds of athletes who also did win a medal who did not share Tkachuk’s attitude. The Canadians, who were also favored to win amedal in hockey and did not, watched their female counterparts during the Games. The U.S. Men did not even bother to show up to watch the Americangirls capture the gold in the sport.

Figure skater Nicole Bobek must have been disappointed in placing 17th in the women’s singles competition after being predicted to win a medal. Butthere she was Sunday night, celebrating at the closing ceremonies with Tara Lipinski.

Ah, Tara Lipinski, the queen of the ice and a symbol of what is good about the Olympic Games. While the men’s hockey team did not attend either theopening or closing ceremonies, Lipinski attended both as well as other events during the Olympics.

Here was a 15-year-old girl having the time of her life. And it showed asshe skated to the gold medal with a flawless performance, enjoying every moment of it with an infectious smile.

“I had that feeling of just pure joy, and I went out there and put it in my program,” Lipinski was quoted as saying after her performance. And wehad the pure joy of watching her.

CBS told the story that while a five-year-old Lipinski watched Katarina Witt win the gold medal in Calgary in 1988, her dad built a victory stand for her to pretend she was an Olympic champion. Ten years later, thatdream became a reality. And Lipinski’s expression when she hit her triple-triple during the long program and again on the victory stand listening to the National Anthem are among the most memorable images of these Olympic Games.

It was the expression of a young lady who had just represented her country and the true ideals of the Olympic Games. She brought honor toherself, to her sport and to her country.

There are two words to describe a person like that – Olympic Champion.

Return To News Stories