Lack of photos apology: There are no photos in this story because someone left the digi-cam in the TV announcer booth. I’m not naming any names but he knows who he is.

I’m in Lake Placid, New York for the first ever Winter Goodwill Games. They’ll be on TNT this weekend (Feb.17-21) so be sure to watch. The Goodwill Games are basically a kinder, friendly version of the Olympics started by Ted Turner when the US decided to boycott the Moscow Olympics. The idea was that they be non-political and all about the sports.

Lake Placid is a beautiful little village on the shore of Lake Saranac in way upstate New York. Montreal is only an hour drive north. Placid is a perfect spot for the games as the town has already hosted two Winter Olympics, most recently in 1980. That was the year of the “miracle on ice.” Todd Harris, my broadcast partner, had to remind me that 1980 was the year the US Hockey team, comprised of a bunch of college kids, beat the Russian team, which was manned by a steroid-induced, genetically altered team of professional super players.

But that was 1980. This year the Goodwill Games include luge, bobsled, skeleton, downhill skiing, moguls, aerials, and the “big show” ice-skating. The Games are an extremely big deal. I just got back from the Opening Ceremony where Ted Turner welcomed all the athletes and spectators. New York’s Governor Pataki spoke and a group of about 60 people booed him every time he spoke or was mentioned. Apparently it has something to do with a labor dispute, but it was pretty funny to hear a huge BOOOO every time someone thanked the Governor. Tricia Byrnes was one of the presenters and explained to everyone what a snowboard halfpipe was and how grateful she was that the games included snowboarding.

Earlier in the day was halfpipe practice. The weather in Placid has been a schizophrenic mix of bluebird and blizzard. On Sunday night we got about a foot of snow. Monday was clear, and then today it started snowing again. It’s 10:30 PM here and the snow is still coming down.

The pipe is a bit on the small side, and anyone who has seen or ridden the Mammoth Mountain pipe will realize that this is an understatement. It is also a little flatter than most of the riders wanted to see.

While there are teams from France, Italy, Sweden, Canada and the US it is the later to countries that have most of the top riders.

The guys where having some trouble getting going in the pipe. Rob Kingwill said he was over it, but he may have just been having a bad day. Tommy Czechin was ruling it by the end of practice, however, he said it took so much work to get above the lip that he was getting tired. Justin Lamoureux wasn’t down with the lack of vert. “A little vert would be nice,” he said. But that didn’t stop him from dialing down a solid run with lots o switchness. Speaking of riding switch, Danny Migneault and Guillaume Morisset were riding everything switch and doing it so well they might as well just flop their binders and call it a day. Hampus Mosesson of Sweden was rocking pretty hard as well.

Ross Powers showed up too late for Men’s practice and rode with the women. In fact a lot of the US Team showed up a little late after all their bags got lost on the flight from Reno to Albany. Ross got the pipe down in about two runs and started working on different sections of the pipe especially his rodeo-seven “dismount.” As it stands now it looks like he and Tommy are in there for top honors.

On the womens’ side Kelly Clark was blowing minds. The 16-year-old from Mt. Snow, Vermont is one of the hardest charging pipe girls I’ve ever seen. It’s no wonder that she just walked away with the FIS Junior World title in the halfpipe. Gretchen Bleiler was working on her McTwists. She’s has them all the way around but kept casing it on the deck. She was hoping to have them down for tomorrow’s finals. Kim Stacy and Tricia Byrnes were having some trouble lining their runs up. As Kim Stacy said, “They really shhould have saved the Mammoth Pipe for the end of the season so it wouldn’t ruin all the other pipes for us.”

Hopefully, they’ll be able to pull it a little more together in the practice before tomorrow’s women’s finals.

The rest of the week rolls something like this: women’s pipe finals on Thursday, Men’s pipe finals on Friday, men’s and womens’ Super G on Saturday (Mark Fawcett and Ian Price are here), and Boardercross on Sunday.

Ice Queen Stalking side bar: Kevin Delaney, Trace Worthington, Rose Bowl trophy presenter Todd Harris, and Associate Producer Eric Talent and I were having dinner at a small Italian restaurant on Main Street when someone said, “I think that’s Dorothy Hamill. I turned around and low and behold, it was America’s Sweetheart rocking the same hairdo she’s had for 24 years. And honest truth, she doesn’t look a day older than she did then. Must be something about spending so much time on the ice that keeps you looking young.

But that’s not all. Apparently, all the Ice Queens enjoy a nice Italian meal before they compete. In the corner with a dreadlocked companion was Oksana Baiul the 1994 Olympic gold medalist, and on the other side of the restaurant was Katarina Witt. You know, the beautiful German skater who posed nude in Playboy last year. We kept trying to figure out a way to get an old copy so we could go over and ask her to sign it. So far no luck.

Stay tuned for more behind the scenes coverage of the Goodwill Games and more Ice Queen stalking. I will bring back photo evidence. That is, if my camera survives the night all alone up in the announcers’ stand.