The games in Nagano, Japan were special for the city as they finally won the chance to host at the fourth time of asking (they were candidates for the cancelled 1940 games, 1968, and 1972 but lost out to Sapporo at the national level each time).
Some of Nagano’s biggest moments included:
- Germany topping the medal table with 29 medals (inc. 12 golds)
- Norwegian cross-country skier Bjørn Dæhlie taking his Olympic medal total to 12 (a then-record)
- The Czech Republic men’s team winning gold in the ice hockey
- Japanese ski jumper Kazuyoshi Funaki winning two golds and one silver
- American figure skater Tara Lipinski became won gold at the age of 15 years and 255 days (the youngest in Olympic history in that event)
- Surya Bonaly’s magnificent backflip
- Snowboarding appeared in the games as official medal sport for the first time but not without drama as Ross Rebagliati tested positive for weed a day after winning gold in the men’s giant slalom
A worrying parallel with Beijing 2022 and Nagano 1998 was a viral outbreak. Flu spread across Japan during the Games, resulting in school closures and then then-Prime Minster and his wife being hospitalised. Nearly 900,000 people became ill with 20 people, including 17 schoolchildren and three elderly people, dying from complications of the virus.
This from a 1998 Washington Post article:
In Nagano, it seems as if everyone is coughing on the crowded shuttle buses that carry people from one venue to the next. Chatter about snow and fog and rain has been replaced by more serious talk about antibiotics and pneumonia. Most news organizations and athletic delegations have had at least one person a day in bed with high fever, respiratory ailments and other flu symptoms.
American figure skater Tara Lipinski, who is favored to win a medal after placing second in the first day of competition today, said she was considering moving out of the athletes’ village into a hotel because so many athletes are ill. American Michelle Kwan, the odds-on favorite to win a figure skating gold medal, has been at a hotel since she arrived here last week.
Several gold medal hopefuls were too ill to compete in events for which they had trained for years. Germany’s top-ranked figure skater, Tanja Szewczenko, withdrew from the Games before her event started. She had been sick with flu for more than a week and chose to return home to recuperate and prepare for the world championships next month in Minneapolis.
Canadian pairs figure skaters Marie-Claude Savard-Gagnon and Luc Bradet both came down with flu, and Savard-Gagnon was unable to complete her skating routine. The Canadian national champions finished 16th.
If I get round to doing a blog for the official Beijing 2022 film, I’ll discuss how COVID-19 affected those Games.
For more stories, check out the official Nagano 1998 Olympic News page.