Ventura vents about Olympic torch relay skipping Minnesota

Friday, December 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Gov. Jesse Ventura has a budget deficit, slumping popularity ratings and the potential shutdown of the Minnesota Twins on his hands. But for his constituents who take pride in cold, he's tapped a new issue.

``I'm outraged that the state of Minnesota is not getting the Olympic torch,'' Ventura declared earlier this week. ``There should be an outcry from the public. Minnesota is known for its winters.''

After arriving from Greece, the torch for the Winter Games in Salt Lake City started its relay on Tuesday from Atlanta, the last U.S. city to host an Olympic games. It will be carried through 46 of the 50 states, but it will miss Minnesota, the Dakotas and Hawaii.

Besides its renown for long, tough winters, Minnesota is home to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. It boasts national-caliber courses for cross-country skiing and rinks for speedskating. And more than half of the players on the U.S. hockey team that won Olympic gold in 1980 were from the state.

In a letter to the U.S. Olympic Committee Thursday, Ventura stated his case: ``We love our four seasons in this state, and we face our winters head-on, straight into the wind. A little heat from the Olympic torch would be most welcome and appropriate.''

A member of the 1980 team, Mike Ramsey, said he wasn't even aware of the snub. ``It's not like I'm losing sleep over it,'' said Ramsey, now an assistant coach for the NHL's Minnesota Wild. ``It's odd, though, not to include Minnesota.''

Lyndsay Rowles, a spokeswoman for the relay, said the torch route is ``not about what state has the most snow.'' Time and logistics don't allow the relay to go through every state, she said.

She said the relay includes more states than ever. The torch will travel 13,500 miles before reaching Salt Lake City for the start of the games on Feb. 8. About 11,500 people will carry it, including more than 50 Minnesotans, Rowles said.

A caller to Ventura's weekly radio program Friday said he carried the torch in North Carolina last week.

``You got to carry the torch, Larry?'' Ventura said. ``Why didn't you hijack it and bring it here?''

South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow said, ``The most important thing is that the torch gets to Utah. I don't care what route it takes.''

And a spokesman for North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven said there have been no complaints about being left off the route.

But Ventura is insistent. ``How would they like it if logistically we said our athletes couldn't make it to the Olympics?'' he asked.

Bill Christian, of Warroad, said he's not happy about it at all. Christian and his brother, Roger, helped the U.S. hockey team win a gold medal at the 1960 games. Then his son, David, was on the 1980 team.

``When you think of the Winter Olympics, you think of Minnesota don't you?'' he asked. ``I guess I'm prejudiced, but it doesn't make any sense.''