10. Now you see them, now you don't.
Salt Lake City is known for its winter temperature inversions, where warm upper air holds in air pollution in the valley. The addition of thousands of spectators and vehicles might cause the city to be part of a huge, unhealthy disappearing act. Up in the mountains, snow and fog could postpone skiing competition, as happened during World Cup events last year and during the 1998 games in Nagano.
11. A U.S. men's hockey surprise.
Memories of 1980's "Miracle" at Lake Placid will be on everyone's mind once the games start. Will that help or hinder the U.S. hockey team? Will the 300th mention of Mike Eruzione's name send Keith Tkachuk into a blind rage, causing him to smash his Salt Lake City hotel room and a Mormon temple? Or will the creaky knees and back of Brett Hull hoist Old Glory in celebration after yet another miracle?
12. Go figure.
Can the United States pull off a medal sweep in women's figure skating? Not if Russia's Irina Slutskaya has anything to say about it, but the possibility is there. Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen and Sarah Hughes are serious contenders for a medal of any color. Kwan, upset in her quest for gold in Nagano, will be the favorite despite mounting pressure.
13. The outsider culture of snowboarding.
Hoping to inject energy and youth into the games, the International Olympic Committee introduced snowboarding in Nagano and it quickly made an impression. Not because of its success, mind you, but because the gold medalist in the men's giant slalom, Ross Rebagliati of Canada, tested positive for marijuana. On a more positive note this time around, 29-year-old U.S. snowboarder Chris Klug is expected to be the first organ transplant recipient to compete in the Olympics. Klug, who received a new liver in April 2000, is the best American hope for a medal in the giant slalom.
14. Apolo Anton Ohno and Eric Bergoust.
They're young, they're wild, they're media darlings. Ohno and Bergoust are also as close to a sure thing as the United States has to offer when shooting for gold medals in short-track speed skating and freestyle aerial skiing, respectively.
15. The protests.
With more than 9,000 journalists on hand, everyone from animal rights activists to globalization foes will be in town to try to grab the spotlight for this demonstration or that. Olympic organizers have set up protest zones, but those fenced-in, remote spots are not likely to appease the folks with the messages. Much of the huge security force will be dedicated to anti-terrorist activities. Will things get out of hand?
15 things to watch at the Games
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