How Lillehammer set the standard

"For a lot of us, when we're doing a lot of this skating, you're more spending money than getting money," Blair says. "So for Johann to take what he could use to start his life and get going from his winnings, and instead say, 'I'm going to do this' -- look at where that's gone. He's really taken something from nothing and made a life for himself and in turn has touched many, many lives across the world."

Back to the future (sigh)

After four Olympics and a then-U.S. winter record six medals, Blair says her trip to the podium in Lillehammer for her fifth and final gold was a moment of pride and sadness.

"I knew I would never do that again. I knew I would never be able to take all this in. I knew I wouldn't go on to the next Olympic Games," she says. "I was thinking, 'Will I ever hear the national anthem being played the way it is now?' Probably not. To me, it was like, this is it. It was over, kind of done.

"It was hard."

Blair's Olympic career wasn't the only thing that ended. The quaintness of Lillehammer is disappearing from the Winter Olympics. The host cities are now large, sometimes very large. More troubling, the weather is often decidedly non-winter. There were worries about whether there would be enough snow in the mountains above Sochi, but that is now almost a routine concern for the Winter Olympics. Four years ago, snow had to be transported to the ski venues above Vancouver, while cherry trees bloomed down in the city.

Despite all the fears heading into Sochi, Koss says the Russians will do a great job and that these Olympics will be pleasant and memorable -- and he means memorable in a good way. But he, too, has concerns about what has become of the Winter Olympics since Lillehammer.

"The one thing you can't continue is the cost of it," Koss says. "The IOC has said for a decade that they're going to reduce the cost of hosting the Olympics, but then they still only select countries that will spend tremendous amounts of money on it. I think they have to get serious about that."

Koss says it was a warning to the IOC when Sweden and other countries announced they were pulling out of future Olympics bidding because they could not afford to host the Games anymore.

"So you will have a very limited amount of places to go in the end," he says. "It might not be in the best interest of the Olympic spirit. It might be in the best interests of the dictator or the people trying to promote a certain view of life, but not necessarily to benefit the Olympic Games and the spirit of the Olympics."

The Games are becoming far too costly and far too big. Holding the Olympics in the same few cities every four years would save considerable money and angst. Weather and security concerns also could be limited by choosing the right city.

There is no indication that will ever happen, but if it did, let me nominate Lillehammer as the ideal location. As Jansen says of the greatest Winter Olympics we've seen, "It was a pretty magical time. For everything."

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