The Olympic Winter Games in Nagano will be remembered for the beauty of their setting and the graciousness and hospitality of the Japanese people. Nagano is the southern-most city to host a Winter Games, a paradise of snow-capped mountains, gentle streams and gentle people. Just north of Nagano, the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park has attracted those seeking a quiet place. The Japanese Macaque are found here --monkeys living farther north than any other known primates. The live and play in the hot springs, feeding on bamboo grass, winter buds and bark throughout the winter. At night, they sleep in the surrounding trees, hugging each other in communal family groups.

I visited the park with Jodi Cobb, a member of the U.S. Presidential Delegation and a National Geographic photographer. We photographed these beautiful animals, peacefully existing in the quiet winter landscape.


Just miles away, a far different scene has unfolded over the past few weeks as people from more than 80 nations came to compete and share in the excitement of the Olympic Games. The highlights are memorable:
  • The spectacular and frightening spill by Austria's Hermann Maier during the men's downhill, followed by his incredible gold medal wins in the super-G and giant slalom.
  • The comeback by the USA's Picabo Street as she took the gold medal in the women's super-G after a knee injury suffered just last summer.
  • The joy of the U.S. women's ice hockey team as it made history by winning the first-ever Olympic gold.

  • The astounding performance and record medal wins of the Japanese athletes, inspired by the warmth and support of their fans.
  • The emotional performances by the USA's Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan as they brought home gold and silver in women's figure skating.
  • The upsets in men's ice hockey, as the Czech Republic won the gold medal and Russia the silver, and the U.S. and Canadian teams left Nagano without medals.


These moments help us remember why the Olympic Games are so special. There is a goodwill and spirit felt during the Games that transcends athletics. People from all nations come together in peace to compete on the field of play. Sadly, not all of the U.S. athletes who participated represented the best of our nation. The behavior of a few members of the U.S. men's ice hockey team has been a disappointment to us. They detract from the efforts and standards set by the other members of the team and all of the U.S. athletes who came here to compete and to experience the magic of the Olympic Games.

But our nation is extremely proud of the athletes who competed here. The highlights of these Games will soon become part of Olympic history. Gary Allison, who traveled with our delegation, is capturing these stories in a series of chronicles known as The Olympic Century: The Official 1st Century History of the Modern Olympics. This 25-volume history reflects 18 years of research and 102 years of Olympic moments. Thank you Nagano for keeping the spirit alive.