Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Winter Olympics: Gold At Albertville, '92

Thankfully, I have only taken one police-administered breath-a-lizer test in my life. This happened in France in January 1992. I had driven up to Courcheval 1650 from Albertville, and toured what would become our group's Olympic home one month later, the Hotel du Golf. Naturellement, I lunched outside in the sun with Henri, the hotel's owner. It is my recollection that we sampled some local beaujulais, which Henri cooled in the snow.  The yellow scarf pictured above witnessed the whole thing.

I wanted to return to Albertville before dark, because I was inexperienced at driving those vertical roads with their constant twists and turns. I had only begun to learn the art of alpine driving, having negotiated sleet and fog coming up to Albertville from Lyons.

I remember little about that first descent, except that it was wonderful to come down through the pretty towns, like Moutiers, below Courcheval. But, exiting one of the the last sharp turns I ran into du lineup gendarmes: a surprise alcohol level test.  This is great, I remember thinking: big time corporate events leader arrested in France on a DWI. That would make a nice pre-Olympic headline.

But, Friends, this was pre- Olympic France. I do not know what my score was that day, but they did not retain me or even scold me. I had a gold in my first Albertville event.

Later, my Olympic job became Chief Driver, since all of the Renault Espace vans had standard shifts located on the column. I was one of very few who could drive them, making many trips to and from the airport in Lyons and the train station in Moutiers, not to mention Albertville itself.

One sunny afternoon, my colleague John and I watched hockey in Meribel. Afterwards, we stationed ourselves at a bistro, where we could watch the ski-jumpers high above us across the road and sip our wine. 

When we got back up to Courcheval, I realized that I had left my yellow scarf in the bistro, and John wanted me to go right back and retrieve it. Instead, I said we'd try the next day. This was typical of our respective working styles. John, a former army Colonel and MP never left anything undone or unplanned. My somewhat looser system could annoy him, but he had slowly come to trust me anyway.

Late the next day, on our way to watch the ski-jump finals in Meribel, I stopped by the bistro, made my way through the crowded tables filled with attractive brightly-clad skiers and spectators. There, hanging on its peg, exactly where I had left it, was my scarf.

As we crossed the road, John just gave me one of his looks and a slight shake of his head, amazed that  nobody had walked off with the scarf. 

I had won my second gold at Albertville.

Note: for a look at the trois valees area above Albertville, please go to:

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