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Area Athletes Impressed by Atmosphere : Opening ceremonies: U.S. Olympic Festival gets off to a rousing start before 62,702 in the Alamodome.


SAN ANTONIO — Justin Huish will never forget the Alamodome.

Neither will Brad Fullmer.

Other than being West region teammates at the Olympic Festival, Huish and Fuller have little in common.

But now they share a memory.

Competition, for a few hours anyway, took a back seat to the pageantry of opening ceremonies Friday night at San Antonio's new $182 million sports showplace.

What took place left Huish, an archer from Simi Valley, and Fullmer, a baseball player from Montclair Prep High, awe-struck along with the majority of other athletes in attendance.

"When I walked in and the crowd was cheering like that it sent chills up my spine," Huish said.

For the first time since its opening in May, the Alamodome was filled to capacity. The cheering of the 62,702 who came made a lasting impression.

Wearing the red, yellow, blue and green colors of their respective regions, the athletes paraded onto the arena floor to be greeted by a 15-minute standing ovation.

Fullmer, 18, was hoping he could catch a glimpse of his parents in the crowd.

"I was going to look, but then when we came out and I started to look around, there was no way," Fullmer said. "That was incredible. I've never seen anything like it. There were so many people."

Almost as many musicians, drill team performers, cheerleaders, young athletes, boy and girl scouts, mimes, jugglers, clowns, unicyclists, singers and belly dancers were involved in the festivities as athletes.

Organizers estimated there were 2,200 performers. The athletes, coaches and officials who attended totaled near 2,500.

"A tournament is a tournament," Huish said. "The actual competition part of this is same-old, same-old. But you never see anything like this."

Huish, 18, is competing in the Olympic Festival for the first time, but he is not actually a rookie. In 1991, he witnessed opening ceremonies in Los Angeles.

His expectations based on that experience were not very high.

"L.A. was nothing like this," said Huish, who won national collegiate indoor and outdoor championships this year as a freshman at Arizona State.

The ceremonies included a spectacular sound, light, laser and pyrotechnic show. Grammy Award-winning singer Bruce Hornsby contributed a four-song set.

However, the loudest roars were reserved for the competitors and swimmer Pablo Morales and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, both Olympic champions.

Morales and Yamaguchi participated in the lighting of the Olympic Festival Torch.

Fullmer, a third baseman who was drafted in the second round by the Montreal Expos, said he has been surprised by the welcome the athletes have received.

"This was a good way to get all of us to realize the magnitude of what's going on here," he said.

"I didn't know this was such a big deal until we got here. This whole town is going crazy."

Festival Notes

Television coverage of the Olympic Festival begins today at 1 p.m. with a two-hour show on the Turner Broadcasting System. First-day coverage features basketball, figure skating and synchronized swimming. . . . Among the favorites in ladies' figure skating is Natasha Kuchiki from Canoga Park, a former Olympian. . . . Prime Network's two-hour telecast, which includes archery, figure skating and swimming, begins tonight at 6 p.m.

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