DURHAM, N.C. — The 1987 U.S. Olympic Festival, already the most successful ever financially, appears headed toward an attendance record as well.
With gymnastics and track and field, the glamour events of the competition, still to come, the events in five North Carolina cities had earned $2.6 million in ticket sales, more than $1 million above what was expected. That figure could go as high as $3 million, organizers said Thursday.
The previous record for ticket sales was $2.4 million in Houston last year, when the competition switched names to U.S. Olympic Festival after six years as the National Sports Festival.
"We were using $1.5 million as a conservative figure," Hill Carrow, president and executive director of the local organizing committee, said. "I thought we could go a little over that. But I never expected we would go more than a million dollars over it."
Attendance stood at about 303,614; the record of 346,944 was set at Houston. With three more sessions of gymnastics at 21,444-seat Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill yet to come, and track and field beginning Friday at 33,941-seat Wade Stadium, the attendance record also should fall.
"We have the definite potential to break that record," Carrow said. "I'm very ecstatic, very pleased."
Carrow claimed the switch in names for the Festival has been a key factor in the successes of Houston and here.
"The fact that we're the second community to utilize the word Olympic; the fact that people are on an upward swing toward the (1988) Olympics" has helped, he said.
The West hockey team could use some help. It has played two games at Greensboro and not scored a goal, losing 3-0 and 8-0.
The 8-0 rout came at the hands of the North as Brad Ryan of Illinois Chicago stopped 29 shots. The North set a Festival record by scoring three goals in 54 seconds.
The East was even more powerful. Led by Brad Jones of Michigan, with three goals and two assists, and linemates Tom Chorske of Minnesota, with a goal and four assists, and Jon Morris of Lowell, with two goals and two assists, the East beat the South, 9-5. Jones had all three of his goals and Morris scored both of his in the third period.
In gymnastics, Neil Palmer of Lincoln, Neb., overtook David St. Pierre of Los Angeles with the highest score of the meet, a 9.75 on the horizontal bar, to win the men's all-around gold medal.
The North rode a 2-3-4 finish to grab the team gold medal with 278.700 points.
Palmer, of Nebraska, who finished third in this year's NCAA all-around competition, trailed UCLA's St. Pierre by .05 points going into the final event.
"I knew the meet was really close," Palmer said. "I go to the mount and see him (St. Pierre) getting ready for his floor exercise, then someone in the crowd yelled 'Go Nebraska,' . . . and it fired me up."
He used that extra boost on the horizontal bar to edge St. Pierre.
Also at Chapel Hill, the North, led by the powerful spiking of Lawrence Hom and the blocking of Dave Bittner, won the men's volleyball gold medal, beating the West, 6-15, 15-5, 15-5, 15-4.
Hom, of Torrance, had a 19 kills, raising his four-match total to a tournament-high 88. Adam Lockwood of Wildomar, Calif., added 16 kills. Bittner, of Pittsburgh, had seven blocks to go with his seven kills.