Monday, February 23, 1998
Olympic flame out but afterglow burns brightTOKYO (AP) -- The Olympic flame is extinguished but its afterglow burns in Japan, where the prime minister on Monday saluted the nation's medalists for persevering amid "unimaginable pressure."
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto invited Japan's medalists to his official residence, where the five Japanese athletes who won gold medals were presented with special silver cups courtesy of the emperor.
"I would like to applaud you who, against the backdrop of people's strong expectations, persevered through unimaginable pressure in the host country," Hashimoto said, according to Kyodo News.
The next winter host is Salt Lake City in 2002, and officials in Utah on Monday were to welcome the arrival of the Olympic flag.
Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini and Salt Lake Organizing Committee president Frank Joklik escorted the flag on its trip to the United States aboard a chartered jet.
The closing ceremony Sunday marked an end to the 16-day festival and the constant worry over security.
A bomb threat sent to organizers was made public only after the ceremonies had concluded. While the threat -- detailed in a letter postmarked in Germany -- turned out to be false, Nagano police said Monday that it prompted tighter security during the games.
In what might be considered lukewarm praise at best in any other nation except Japan, IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch said these games presented the "best organization" of any Winter Olympics.
Japan's organizational and athletic success helped boost the national pride in a country beset by weak economic growth and disclosures of corporate and government corruption.
"Japanese athletes performed much better than expected, a welcome respite from the depression we feel over the business slump and the series of financial scandals," Yomiuri, Japan's largest newspaper, said in an editorial.
The Olympics earned high TV ratings in Japan, with the opening and closing ceremonies pulling in the largest audiences, according to Video Research, a TV rating company in Tokyo.
South Korea's victories, too, were a lift for a country that teetered on financial collapse before accepting billions of dollars from the International Monetary Fund.
Cash awards of up to $75,000 awaited South Korea's six medalists and a big welcome was planned Tuesday in Seoul. South Korea won three of the six gold medals in short track speed-skating.
"South Koreans could forget about the IMF for a few days ... the glory of short-track has consoled hurt national pride," the Joongang Daily News, a major national daily, said Monday in an editorial.
In Europe, about 100,000 people welcomed the Czech Republic's men's hockey team, which stunned the American and Canadian squads to earn its first gold medal.
"Thanks to you, billions of people now know what is the Czech Republic," President Vaclav Havel told the players. "Also thanks to you, there's a good mood in the country ... and people have even discovered patriotism inside themselves."
Norway, home to the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, came away from Nagano trailing only Germany in the medal standings.
"The Olympics in Japan were a surprising and historic triumph for Norway," the Oslo newspaper Verdens Gang said Sunday.