The door to the copy machine was flung open and someone was changing the toner as Jean-Claude Killy walked by.
"There, you see," he said, the English perfect but the accent perfectly French. "That is the Olympic Games."Well, for now.
Killy wasn't speaking as Jean-Claude the ski racer, the man they called "Breakneck" because, in the summers, while his ski coaches cringed, he would race cars just to keep up the adrenalin.
He was speaking as Jean-Claude the Olympic organizer, a job he once held for four years, from 1988 through February of 1992, when the Albertville Winter Games were staged in his home country of France and his home region of the Savoy Alps.
"The problem, you see, is that the Olympic Games are just three weekends, 17 days," he said, "and until then you see nothing. It is paper, only paper. What we are doing this week, that is all it is."
Organizing is paper.
The construction cranes all around Salt Lake City. The frustrated motorists. The debates over budgets and worries about tax money.
The Savoy. Late '80s. All over again. Ask Jean-Claude.
"I used to walk through downtown Albertville," he says, "and people would see me and ask, `Jean-Claude, when will the mess end?' "
If the pre-Olympics are paper and roadwork, they are also emotion and high anxiety.
When Jean-Claude Killy was first drafted onto the Albertville organizing team as co-president in 1987, his proposals were controversial enough that 3,000 people stormed the streets in Chambery and demanded his resignation.
So he resigned.
This wasn't just any Frenchman. This was Jean-Claude Killy, the most famous three words in France. A bona fide Son of the Alps raised in the postcard ski village of Val-d'Isere, where as a boy he was chased on skis by the parish priest when he cut catechism class.
In 1968 in the Winter Games held in Grenoble, not far from Val-d'Isere, Jean-Claude wrote the script for Olympic heroism and jingoism, winning all three alpine ski races - slalom, giant slalom and the downhill.
Except for perhaps Sonja Henie, the Norwegian skater once wooed by Hitler, there is no more enduring figure in Olympic winter history.
And this was the man jeered and booed by his countrymen in the winter of '88.
But the French being the French soon enough emoted in the opposite direction.
In the wake of Killy's resignation, newspapers ran polls that showed he was still the most beloved man in the country and then ran editorials begging for his apology and his return as chairman of the Games.
So he came back.
Now he is a consultant.
The Albertville Games are already six years long gone in the rearview mirror. The Lillehammer and Nagano Games, too, have come and gone.
Next up: You know who.
As part of the IOC commission designed to pass along expertise and experience, Jean-Claude is in town this week to help the local organizers get rid of at least a little of that deer-in-the-headlights look.
"We are here to share, we are here to help," Killy said yesterday as he passed that copy machine at the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City. "Those 17 days of the Games are glory days, and they will be glorious. But now is not glory. Now is preparation and construction and mess and cranes and budget discussion."
And copy machines.
The world's most well-known ski racer and slightly less known organizer of the Albertville Games of '92 smiled an impeccable French smile and said, "I would not want to do it again.
"I once held my breath for ours," he said graciously, "Now I hold my breath for yours."