Paralympics hope to feed off Olympics

Juneau's Tompkins Alaska's first athlete entered in Games

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Paralympics begin March 7 and organizers hope the spirit of the Winter Games carry over to the 10-day event for the physically challenged.

"I think people sometimes think that the Paralympics are more what the Olympics used to be -- pure sport," said wheelchair racer and cross-country skier Candace Cable, who has competed in Paralympics since 1984.

Juneau's Joe Tompkins will become the first Alaskan to compete in the Paralympics, racing as an alpine skier in his monoski. Tompkins, who was paralyzed from the waist down in an auto accident involving alcohol, will compete in the downhill event on March 9 and in the Super G on March 10, both at Snowbasin Ski Area.

Rather than compare the two games, director Xavier Gonzalez wants the Paralympics to extend the excitement of the Olympics through March 16, when they end.

Paralympians will compete on the same venues and live in the same housing Olympic athletes stayed in during the Salt Lake City Games. They will use Rice-Eccles stadium for their opening ceremony and light a fire in the same cauldron that burned during the games.

"We don't try to match the Olympics in scale and in spectacle," said ceremony producer Joedy Lister. "They do that very well, and we could never match that."

A close relationship between the two games affords the Paralympics "more profile, better venues, better events, a lot more support than in the past," Gonzalez said. Many of the Paralympic expenses were covered by dual planning with the Olympics, but organizers will spend about $60 million just on the Paralympics.

Banners of athletes draped on downtown buildings will remain through the Paralympics, which will also use the medals plaza for closing ceremonies but will not host nightly concerts and medal presentations.

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