Draw for giant placard carriers
Individual sumo wrestlers have been assigned to lead a country or a region in the procession of the opening ceremony on Dec.26. Some already known match were yokozuna Takanohana with Japan which will will come in last. The other yokozuna, Akebono has been assigned to lead Greece which will be the first country to enter the stadium. Musashimaru was selected to hold the placard of the USA. Some new assignments are, Takanonami with Ireland, Wakanohana with Israel, Mitoizumi with Jamaica, Takatohriki with Slovania. Kyokushuzan is responsible for Kazakhstan if his country Mongolia does not enter the Games.
Michiyo's Note: On Jan.5, Mongolia's participation had been confirmed.

First male summer and winter Olympian
30-year old Shinji Aoto has been selected one of the members of Japan's bobsleigh team on Dec. 23. This has made him the first Japanese man ever to participate in both the winter and summer Olympic Games. Aoto was the Japan record holder in the 100 meter track event. He ran the race in both the Soeul and Barcelona Olympic Games.

Olympic flame arrives from Athens
On Dec. 23, the Olympic flame arrived at Narita Airport, as Tokyo was having its first snowfall this winter. It was carried in 2 containers. One was carried by Nagano Mayor Tasuku Tsukada. At the ceremony later that day, the flame was kindled while looked on by the final torch bearer Midori Ito and elementary school kids.
Michiyo's Note: I took the picture on the right on Dec. 28, in the Ginza (the luxurious shopping district of Tokyo) when the Olympic flame was on display.

Torch bearers decided
World Track and Field Championships medalists were chosen afterall as the final runners bearing the tourch at the Winter Olympics. The general producer of the opening event, Keita Asari disclosed on Dec 12. They're women's 10,000 meter bronze medalist Masako Chiba and Hiromi Suzuki who won the women's marathon in August in Athens. Asari had already announced his choice on Sept.28. However, miscommunication arose between various organizations. Some insisted on selecting nordic combined gold medalists of the Albertville Games to play the role. As a result, the winter medalists have also been added to the list of final torch bearers. They are Reiichi Miketa, Masashi Abe, and Takanori Kohno. The torch will enter the stadium with Chris Moon who acts against ant-personnel land mines. The very last runner is Suzuki. She will hand the torch to former figure skating silver medalist Midori Ito to light the Olympic fire.

Starting point of the downhill course is finalized
On Dec. 1 in Tokyo, members of the Japan Olympic Committee, Ski Association of Japan and the organizing committee of the Nagano Olympics agreed to raising the starting point of the men's downhill course to 1765 meters. The course will cover portions of the national park. However, the competitors will be required to jump over the environmentally protected area. Skiers would take about 1 minute 40 seconds to finish the race. That's the time the International Ski Federation was pushing for.

Special panel to discuss downhill course established
The panel, consisting of Japan Olympic Committee chairman, Hironoshin Furuhashi and bureaucrats of Nagano met to inaugurate the special panel on Nov. 20, instead of announcing their final decision with regard to the ski course. They hope to be able to declare on Dec. 1 the starting point of the downhill course. They are as a matter of fact considering lifting the starting point. On Nov. 11, the organizing committee reported that the 1740 meter area is considered.

To review recent discussions on the matter, President of the International Ski Federation, Marc Hodler held a meeting in Nagano on Nov.1. It was attended by Nagano Governor Goro Yoshimura and top members of the organizing committee. Hodler announced that he will leave it up to Nagano to decide on what to do about the starting point of the downhill course. It was reported the previous day that Marc Hodler who arrived in Japan on Oct.30 had said that there is possibility that all skiing events may be cancelled if the Nagano side keeps on insisting to keep the downhill course's starting point at 1680 meters. The All Japan Ski Federation announced that they'd go along with FIS's demand of lifting it to 1800 meters. NAOC reconfirmed their comment on Oct. 16, that they would not back off.

Tickets going on sale again
The Nagano Olympic Committee announced on Oct. 7 that there are actually many leftover tickets. That's more than 300 thousand or 1/4 of the total. They include tickets that were meant to be sold abroad,those saved for sponsors, and those that were supposed to be cashed in by people who won the tickets by postcards. The leftover tickets went on sale again from October 21.

Ogiwara is the Japanese team leader
Nordic combined champion Kenji Ogiwara formally accepted to take on the role as captain of the Japanese team. This was made known on Oct.6, when Ogiwara and 3 other Olympians modelled, wearing the national team uniforms for the Olympics. It is basically dark blue. The Japanese flag is embroidered on the chest right above the 5 rings of the Olympic Games.

Japan decides on largest ever delegation
The number of Japanese athletes and officials making up the delegation to the Winter Olympics will reach 320. The Japan Olympic Committee announced on Aug.5. It's far more than the largest ever 110 members Japan had sent to Sapporo and Lillehammer. Still it is said that JOC have cut 63 people out of the troupe after looking into the level of competition in each event. There are many who are against JOC's decision arguing that more people are needed to support the participants.

200th days til the Olympics celebrated
Events were held in both Nagano and Tokyo as the the number of days to the Olympics have come down to 200 on July 21. Figure skating hope was invited to a talk show at Ariake Fashion Town in the Tokyo Bay area. A special T-shirt commemorating the day was auctioned for 350,000 yen. Snow was catered down to Nagano-city from one of the venues of the Games, Nozawa-onsen. Children played in the snow while the city's temperature was 32 degrees celsius. A survey shows that the people of Nagano's interest in the Olympics is still low.

Participating countries and regions
The number of countries and regions who have pledged to take part has increased to 83 by June 30. However, this does not necessarily mean that all of them will join the Games. There were 67 participating at the Lillehammer Olympics.
Africa Cameroon, Gambia
Guinea-Bissau, South Africa
Asia Cambodia, China
Chinese Taipei, India
Iran, Japan
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan
Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon
Mongolia, North Korea
South Korea, Tajikistan
Europe Andorra, Albania
Austria, Azerbaijan
Belarus, Belgium
Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria
Croatia, Cyprus
Czech Republic, Denmark
England, Estonia
Finland, France, Germany
Greece, Georgia, Hungary
Iceland, Ireland, Israel,
Italy, Latvia
Luxembourg, Macedonia
Mordova, Monaco
Netherlands, Norway
Poland, Portugal, Rumania
Russia, Slovak Republic
Slovania, Spain, Sweden
Switzerland, Turkey
Ukraine, United Kingdom
Pan America Achilles, Argentina, Bahamas
Burmuda, Bolivia
Brazil, Canada, Chile
Costa Rica, El Salvador
Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad Tobago
United States of America
Uruguay, Virgin Islands
Oceania Australia, Guam
New Zealand
Michiyo's Note: I know the count isn't right.

Tickets go on sale nationwide
244,000 tickets plus another 5000 left over from the postcard requesting system went on sale through 8 agencies all over Japan on June 2. Tickets to the opening ceremony and the figure skating competitions were sold out in 5 minutes. In Nagano-city a total 1000 people waited in line to purchase tickets. Some people were already lined up since May 30. The agencies did not reveal the number of tickets of which events they had available. So the lack of information has proved to be an obstacle even for those who were waiting from the day before. They could not purchase what they wanted.

North Korea plans to participate
It was learned on May 9 that North Korea is willing to take part in the Winter Olympics. So far, a total of 70 countries and regions have reported to the International Olympic Gommittee their intention to participate. The number exceeds the participation at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics of 67 countries and regions. Included among the countries this time is Cambodia and Laos, but their competency is questioned.

Odds for getting tickets disclosed
The total number of ticket requests have reached 6.46 million according to the organizing committee on May 2. The average odd is 17.7 to 1. Here's a list of tickets that are the toughest to buy.

Event Odds Ticket Order
1. Figure skating 81.9 to 11,658,696
2. Opening ceremony24.2 to 1564,698
3. Speed skating 20.2 to 1868,841
4. Freestyle ski18.5 to 1273,921
5. Short track skating 13.2 to 1 107,079
6. Closing ceremony11.0 to 1219,9939
7. Ski jump9.7 to 1631,760
8. Ice hockey 9.3 to 1 986,742
9. Curling 5.0 to 130,768
10.Alpine ski 4.8 to 1668,067
Another 244,000 tickets will go on sale from June 2 at various outlets including the Japan Travel Bureau. They can be purchased on a first come first serve basis.

Chief of Athlete's Village decided
Freestyle wrestling gold medalist at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games was selected by Apr.24 to head the Athlete's Village. He's Shozo Sasahara who is presently President of the Japan Wrestling Association. The Japan Olympic Committee chose Mr. Sasahara, because of his global contribution in the sports world.

Ticket requests booming in
The Nagano Olympic Committee announced that on Mar. 7, they have received over 10,000 requests via postcard for tickets to ceremonies and competitions at the WInter Olympic Games. The most popular so far are the opening and closing ceremonies, ice hockey games and figure skating competitions. Postcard requesting to buy tickets will be received until Mar. 14, 1997.

Singers will be charged for their part in the Opening Ceremony
The individuals expected in the choir to sing Beethoven's 9th Symphony at the Opening Ceremony will not only pay their own way to the venue, but is also asked to pay for the entrance fee to the ceremony itself. This unheard of situation was learned on Feb.13. The city claims, it cannot compensate for the 2000 seats that will be taken up by the choir, so the officials have decided to charge the fee. The entrance tickets cost 20,000 yen to 35,000 yen.

Celebration marking one year 'til the Olympics
Ceremonies were held in both Nagano and Tokyo on Feb.7, the day exactly a year from the next Winter Olympics. Nagano mainly involved the local bureaucrats. The real fun happened at the newly opened convention hall, Tokyo International Forum. The highest ranking sumo wrestlers, Akebono and Takanohana cracked open a decorated ball that is often used in Japan for ceremonious occasions. Also, joining them in the act was former Olympic bronze medalist in synchronized swimming Mikako Kotani and officials of the Japan Olympic Committee.

Plans for the opening ceremony were also disclosed--that sumo wrestlers will be expected to make an appearance, and definitely a ring entrance ceremony will be conducted by the two yokozuna. The question is whether the two will be able to bear the chilly winter climate of Nagano half naked.

Besides, tickets for the Games and commemorative stamps were sold from that day. In an auction for a "countdown t-shirt", one man bought it for 70 thousand yen.

First official competition at White Ring
On Jan.13, the national championship of figure skating was held at the Olympic ring. However, officials had to adjust the lights and other equipments in the facility.
Michiyo's Note: My friend went to see the Olympic facilities in February. She said that the area around the seats of the White Ring was kept to 9 degrees celsius. The spectators were though freezing. At the same time, the ice on the White Ring was melting. Another of her negative impression of the area was the narrowness of the road to the White Ring. There's a lot of bad rumors about the management in preparation for the Olympics. At least, there's still more time for adjustments.

Nagano Governor ridicules speed skating
Nagano Governor Goro Yoshimura, who is also vice president of the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee said in his New Year's speech that speed skating is as boring as watching a "mizusumashi" or the water beetle. This is despite the fact that Japanese speed skaters have been winning top places in international speed skating competitions this winter. Many have criticized the governor for his carelessness and that he should study sports more if he is to be one of the high ranking organizers of the coming Winter Olympics.

Pre-Olympic Events in Nagano
1996 Dec 16
to 22
Ice Hockey International Cup (Nagano)
1997 Jan 11
to 12
World Cup Ski (Hakuba)
Jan 25 to 26 World Cup Ski Jump (Hakuba)
Jan 30 to Feb 2 World Cup Ski Combined (Hakuba)
Feb 4 to 9 World Championships in Freestyle Ski(Nagano)
Feb 14 to 16 World Cup Snowboard (Yamanouchi)
Feb 14 to 16 World Speed Skating Championships (Nagano)
Feb 15 to 16 World Cup Luge (Nagano)
Feb 22, 26 World Cup Bobsled (Nagano)
Feb 28 to Mar 1 World Cup Women's Alpine Ski (Hakuba)
Mar 6, 8 to 9 World Cup Biathlon (Nozawa onsen)
Mar 8 to 9 FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup (Yamanouchi)
Mar 22 to 30 World Championships in Curling (Karuizawa)
Mar 28 to 30 World Championships in Short Track Skating (Nagano)
Nov 27 to 30 NHK Cup Figure Skating Championships

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