Originally created 02/08/98

Notes from Nagano: Kenya's skiers draw attention



NAGANO, Japan -- Every Olympics has its characters, from British ski jumper Eddie the Eagle to the Jamaican bobsled team.

At this Winter Olympics it could be the Kenyan cross country skiers who become the footnotes to history.

Everywhere they go the African nation's first-ever skiers are photographed and asked for interviews. The team actually consists of Philip Boit, a former policeman and middle-distance runner. But he has been joined in Japan by Henry Bitok, a world-class steeplechaser who failed to qualify on skies but came along as a reserve.

Boit won't be any threat for a medal, but he's hoping to spark interest in skiing in his country.

"I am proud to be here and I hope that next time we'll be in a bigger group," he said.

EMOTIONAL:

Michelle Stokes, wife of Jamaican bobsledder Wesley Stokes, watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics with great emotion, she said as she was surrounded by Japanese autograph huners in the Olympic Village.

"We were moved by the way the Japanese managed to combine all the continents of the world together," she said. "It was beautiful how they tried to bring everybody together."

DIFFERENT TAKE:

Norwegian freestyle skier Hilde Synnoeve Lid, a bronze medalist in 1994, saw something else at the ceremonies.

"I was a little disappointed with the opening ceremony," she said. "Compared with Lillehammer, which was held at night, it was not so exciting. I also expected there would be more traditional Japanese music but most of the music did not sound like typical Japanese music to me."

EASY FLOWING:

Traffic flowed smoothly around the Olympic stadium before and after opening ceremonies, thanks to regulations put into effect for the Winter Olympics.

Police said traffic was down as much as 40 percent from the previous week. Police had been hoping from cooperation from local residents to reduce traffic by 30 percent during the 16-day run of the Olympics.