Speed skating rink is opened
On Dec. 1, the M-Wave was opened to the public. It is the only ice skating rink in Japan which has a 400-meter lap and supports double tracks.

Olympic ticket price
It was disclosed on Nov.16 how much the tickets for games and ceremonies will cost. Here are the prices set for some of the major events.

Seat ASeat BSeat C
Opening Ceremony 35,000 yen 25,000 yen 20,000 yen
Alpine Ski 8000 yen 3000 yen (standing)
Figure Skate (free competition) 30,000 yen 25,000 yen 20,000 yen
Men's Ice Hockey (finals) 30,000 yen 25,000 yen (standing) 8000 yen (standing)
Curling 3000 yen
Closing Ceremony 30,000 yen 20,000 yen 15,000 yen

Tickets will go on sale in February 1997.

Events marking 500 more days to the Winter Olympics
The countdown to the Nagano Olympics continues. Sept. 25 marked exactly 500 more days to the Olympics. The day was celebrated in Nagano, joined by the dog sleigh team from Lillehammer, Norway where the 1994 Winter Games were held. Also, Japanese artist Hiro Yamagata had an official showing of the Nagano poster that will go on sale in November. Yamagata, who is resident of the U.S.A. has created posters for the Olympic Games in Calgary, Soeul, Barcelona and Atlanta. Pop singer Fumiya Fujii sold the tee shirt he's designed for the countdown. He's in charge of those displaying the numbers 500 to 401. Number 500 was auctioned for 670,000 yen by a 28 year old female office worker. Fujii was surprised that somebody would care to pay this much money for what he sees as just an ordinary tee shirt.

Controversy over ski slope
The starting point for downhill skiing is presently set at 1680 meters above sea level, but the International Skiing Federation (FIS) insists it to be brought up to 1800 meters. FIS's demand came after evaluating the course the first time it was tested by holding the World Cup Alpine Ski Competition. FIS reasons that the course is too short. Many competitors gave this comment too. Also, it is necessary to make the course more attractive for competitors and spectators. The Nagano Olympic Winter Games Organizing Committee (NAOC) is refusing to accept the proposal. They reason that above the starting line they've designated is environmentally protected. FIS is also asking NAOC to slalom events to Hakuba rather than hold them in Yamanouchi. But NAOC explained local communities will no way conform to the request to realize the request. As of May, no action has been taken.

On July 2, it's been announced that FIS will no longer bother the organizers to raise the starting point.

Though constructions and other preparations seem to be underway on schedule, many problems seem to be arising as of February. The initial budget was set at 76 billion yet, but it has skyrocked to 94.5 billion yen. The appreciation of the yen last year is one reason, but the major reason is due to the rise of hi-tech telecommunication network expenses. Of course, new sports entries is another factor. They are curling, women's hockey and snowboarding events. However, the facilities are receiving criticism from the International Olympic Committee. The ice hockey arena was supposed to seat 12,000 spectators, but its capacity is so far limited to 8000.

Schools will support participating countries
78 elementary schools and junior high schools in Nagano each will cheer on one country. Some schools have started the campaign by inviting people from the country they're supporting, or are corresponding to them in some other way. They are also studying the language and culture of the country.

Financial support of participating countries
NAOC has announced on April 8th that it will support each participating athlete up to 1000 U.S. dollars. Since they are expecting 1700 athletes. Their total spending will amount to around 1.8 millon dollars.

Michiyo's Note: I actually visited the site of the Olympic Games, namely Shigakogen ski resort in mid April of 1996. They were covering up rivers to construct roads. I'm afraid a lot of the natural environment is being destroyed.

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