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Original Issue


After much ado about altitude, everyone has pretty much agreed that if they hope to win medals in Mexico, 1968 Olympians had better head for the hills to train. The Russians have repaired to their slopes, Americans to Lake Tahoe—both of which are fine—but the French have come up with the most flamboyant camp of all, the Lycée Climatique et Sportif et Centre d'Entra√Ænement en Altitude, a lavish, $8 million Sweat Socks Hilton in the sky. During September some 500 athletes from 22 nations will be registered at Font-Romeu, roughly 550 miles south of Paris and perched atop the Pyrenees at 6,070 feet. High in the crisp pine forests, with an unlimited horizon, Font-Romeu features gymnasiums, tracks in all sizes, plus facilities for fencing, shooting, tennis, riding, diving, soccer, everything to train any team—all grouped around a sprawling fortress of structures faintly medieval in mood, like the main dorm at right, where French cyclists are strolling off to a workout. And when October's athletes leave, Font-Romeu will go on, as a secondary school, as an educational haven for asthmatics and as a kind of permanent sports prep—whose glamorous Class of '68 will remember that getting there was half the fun.

The handsome 12-story central building, which is mostly dormitories, rises dramatically against a setting of wooded ridges and the distant peaks of the Pyrenees. Bulldozing, kept to a minimum and utilizing as much as possible the natural contours of the land, established areas for a soccer field, a 400-meter track, a second, smaller track, a training area for field events, and outdoor volleyball, tennis and basketball courts.

French rowers sweep across the rooftop of France on the high-level Lac des Bouillouses—where each training lane is a mile and a quarter straightaway—while a band of runners (below) starts a daily crosscountry workout at the 1,800-meter mark on the mountainside that overlooks the camp.