Alpe d'Huez, France 2004
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''The meeting is over but the war in Iraq has just begun. Let's all hope it's been over for a long time when we meet again in Alpe d'Huez next year.''
These were the finishing sentences of my report on Les Diablerets last year.
The traditional war is over, all right, but the modern war goes on and on.
Anyone of us could have written a better screenplay.
We could have, by the old Greek Olympic tradition, declared cease-fire during the SCIJ ski week.
Even a better idea would be cease-fire during the rest of the year and open hostilities during the ski week. Then we didn't have to write about war at all. Others would do it during the war week.
Regardless of the continuous hostilities close to the homes of some of us we gathered in the peaceful plateau of Alpe d'Huez.
Like so many times before, Mother Nature gave us a special treatment by letting the sunshine in the blue sky raising the temperatures to spring levels. Who says the press isn't being fawned on.
The opening ceremony was great, I've heard. Because of flight delays, landslide and getting lost (almost found ourselves in les Deux Alpes) our busload among others missed the whole spectacle.
Happy re-union with old and even older friends in the lobby of the hotel and the nearby pub compensated the loss.
SCIJ brought the spring in Alpe d'Huez.
At least, if one believes the locals, the previous week had been cold, cloudy and windy. The snow was bad and there wasn't enough of it.
Whatever the truth, we walked the sunny side of the street past an outdoor pool and an ice-rink to horizontal ski lifts. We must've looked like bunches of French breads standing in the shopping-basket-like ski lifts swaying towards Rond Point des Pistes. RPdP is like an airport, were a dozen ski lifts speed people up wherever they desired. We followed my grand mother's old rile: always aim to the top, life will drop you to your rightful position. So, Pic Blanc at 3330 m was our aim and certainly worth it. The sunny Sunday had wheedled the population of a small town into queuing here but finally we got to final lift and reached the final top of A d'H.
The sunny and windless weather would have tempted us to stay longer up there at the breathtaking view (or was it just the altitude), but we had some serious skiing to do. Sarenne was the name of the slope and her measures were remarkable: 18,75 kilometers with vertical drop of 1500 meters. The slope was marked black but steep and gentler parts took turns so nicely that even the not-so-obsessed skiers seemed to enjoy it.
Back to the village and up again with the same 1er Tronçon ski lift we started the way with and then let our stomachs lead the way down to the little village of Oz en Oisans and lunch.
The General Assembly in Alpe d'Huez voted on Jaume Castell's proposal on expanding the number of categories in SCIJ. Jaume's idea, was to follow the FIS rules and have six different categories for the SCIJ races. The debate was long and detailed.
Finally, three different proposals were put to vote:
1. the German compromise suggested to raise the number of categories to five (one up to 39 years of age, one up to 49, one up to 59, one up to 69 and finally one over 70) and got 4 votes;
2. the Bulgarian proposal to have 4 categories (up to 44, up to 54, up to 64 and over 65) also got 4 votes;
3. the Finnish proposal to keep things as they are, i.e. have three categories (up to 44, up to 54 and one over 55), received a majority of 19 votes.
One country abstained and five were not present.
Please note that the Finnish proposal included a suggestion to study a mechanism of handicaps to integrate the super-senior category. The system is in use at least in American Nastar or the Finnish SuomiSlalom. Anyone interested can put forward new ideas on how to do this. If we get enough feedback and concrete proposals, we shall put them to vote at our next GA in Jeseniky!
Nation's Evening crowned the fine day.
Then we admired new Jaguar cars, whose PR tour was to bring 200 motoring journalists to the Alps.
Monday started about like the day before, but we stopped at at Lac Blanc, had a stand-up coffee and peeped into Grotte de Glace and wondered the icy wonders of a frozen mini-size British Museum full of glittery Egyptian sculptures and reliefs. Lunch was offered in the old village Vayjany, by the City Council.
In the evening the conference about Irak, a year later: results and perspectives were scanned.
Dinner and dance finished another fine day. However, probably two busy days in the high altitude had taken the best energy of the partiers.
Tuesday presented us with another wonderful day. No wonder not everyone left for the Rossignol factory ans museum at 1.45.
Later in the evening more busses left for the largest liqueur cellar in the world, that of Chartreuse.
Endles rows of impressive barrels of herb liqueur and old copper distil equipment were beautiful, but we faced one disappointment. Not one monk was in sight. Two of them sit in their office twenty kilometres from the cellars and control the distilling process by computer!
A 3-D movie by famous film director Robert Hossein about the founding of the first Cartusian monastery was the highlight of our visit. Well, snacks and drinks in the monasteryÕs bar werenÕt really lowlight either.
Fortyfive years ago Canada's Eric Durschmied won grand slalom by twelve seconds. Great to have him and other veterans in Alpe d'Huez.
''A Day At the races'' and ''A Night At the Opera''. We didnÕt quite follow the Marx BrothersÕ themes. The races yes, but night was at the concert in the beautiful Notre-Dame des Neiges.
Usually the race means mostly waiting for oneÕs turn. Sometimes the weather is cold and cloudy. Sometimes the slope is steep, icy and frightening. This time nothing was like that. The atmosphere during the race was more like a carnival, more relaxed. To most people the result didnÕt even seem to matter so much. Having great time with all the friends in great weather.
Well, of course, some racers were faster then others: Elisa Calgamucci, Maja Ros and Nina Sossi of ladies and Ralf Scheuerer, Radu Savin and Denis Clerc of men.
Elisa Calgamucci was the fastest of them all.
Too bad the carnival had to be cut short, but we just coulnÕt keep Bertrand Delanoe, the mayor of Paris waiting. The mayor kindly presented us the ParisÕ plans of how to organize the 2012 Olympic Games.
The excellent lunch with regional products offered by the Isère Area Committee of Tourism was certainly worth the price we paid by not spending the sunny afternoon on the slopes.
Inside activities went on in form of the SCIJ Think Tank about the future of SCIJ.
Agneta Bolme-Börjefors is preparing a full report on the discussion that run riot and had to be cut short and give place to ''the Night at the Consert''.
Jean-Paul Imbert, the organist gave us a great concert im memoriam of Gilles de la Rocque. The maestroÕs ballet on the foot keys caused some giggle. One doesnÕt often see comprehensive live show of an organist.
Any reasonable SCIJ member would have called it a day, but no, more was to come. A gondola lift ride from the Bergers took us to the Marmottes restaurant where Eutelsat offered us an excellent dinner. Then we could call it a day.
Well, not all of us. Some wild ones had decided to spend the night in an igloo. Barry Moore told us that he fell asleep at four oÕlock. And there were separate bedrooms for ladies and gentlemen.
The weather and skiing didnÕt get one bit worse on Thursday, on the contrary.
Lunch with Pedro Lamy, the European Commissioner on trade was the only but welcome break in a perfect skiing day.
At 4 PM busses took us to Vizille and to two very different experiences: The Minatec project and The Museum of the French Revolution.
The term "MINATEC" is a contraction of "MIcro and Nano TEChnologies".
Microtechnologies (working at micron level: one thousandth of a millimetre) will tomorrow come up against technological and physical limits.
It can only be surpassed by the use of nanotechnologies (the prefix "nano" indicates one millionth of a millimetre). The objective is to reduce technology to one thousandth of that of current technology, which means working with dimensions approaching the atomic scale.
The Isere General Council is the Minatec project owner and is overseeing the construction of around 44,000 square metres of new building space for this innovation centre.
The huge, magnificent painting of the Revolution Museum gave us a vivid impression of the terror and the despair of itÕs offers. The buffet dinner offered by the general counsel of Isere was a bit hard to swallow.
A short nap during the two hour drive back to Alpe dÕHuez seemed to have freshened up us because quite a few of us appeared in the Sporting disco. Even some champion candidates were there even though the cross-country competition was due on Friday.
Another great carnival day did we have with some program on skis. Of course, for the best skiers competition is competition and champions are champions. SwedenÕs Helena Blomquist and Elisabet Frerot followed by SloveniaÕs Maja Ros took the ladieÕs medals and GermanyÕs Ralf Scheuerer, NorwayÕs Tor Nodal and FranceÕs Denis Clerc those of men.
However, the real togetherness came from having vin chaud and famous Dutch pea soup and following the last skiers last hundred meters. Sidney MaherÕs 1h4:53.70 will be as unbeatable a result as Michael SchumacherÕs 6 WCs in F1.
Lunch&Sunbath at the Le Taburle created such a relaxed feeling, that quite a few of us called it a week, what it comes to skiing.
Presentation of Jeseniky in Czech republic brought in front our eyes a quite different meeting from that of Alpe dÕHuez. Different, but interesting in another way.
Price giving at the Palais of Sport and Congrès was as festive as ever. The sponsors had been very generous. There seemed to be no end with the prices and presents.
Now I end this report with that of last years:
The last dinner party in Sporting restaurant mixes happy togetherness with melancholy of parting. Lots of hugs and kisses on the cheeks. Some people we shall meet next year, some people maybe never again.
On Saturday it's all over and thoughts of work start to creep in. The meeting is over but the hostilities in Near East go on. Let's all hope it's been over for a long time when we meet again in Jeseniky next year.