Many skiers lodge in Hakuba, away from Olympic village

While Olympic organizers generally frown on rule breakers, they have looked the other way when it comes to a select group of wayward athletes who compete in Alpine and Nordic ski events.

Many of these athletes, as well as their coaches and trainers, whose competition venue is an hour and half away from the Olympic Village in Nagano, have decided to forgo their official home.

''Olympic Village? I went there for my ID and spent maybe 10 minutes there,'' says women's Alpine skiing star Katja Seizinger of Germany, one of 17 countries that have arranged accommodation for their athletes at Hakuba.

Seizinger calls it a ''waste of time'' to commute from the Olympic Village in Nagano city, home to most of the 2,640 athletes and officials taking part in the Nagano Winter Games.

Under the organizers' housing rule, athletes and officials are supposed to stay at the 1,000-apartment Village compound.

The only formal exceptions allowed are athletes who compete in curling at the Kazakoshi ice arena in Karuizawa, 90 kilometers from the Olympic Village, or in snowboarding at Shiga Kogen, about 41 km away.

However, Nordic and Alpine ski teams, including those from host Japan, Norway and Austria, have flouted the housing rule openly, even though they have to pay for their own accommodation.

This act of independence does not come cheaply.

The Japanese Olympic Committee, which had abided meticulously by the housing rule in previous Winter Games, is forking out 12,450 yen a day in accommodation subsidies for each of the 100 or so Japanese skiers and their handlers so that they can stay close to Hakuba.

''This time it's different. (For the athletes) to do well, it is inevitable,'' says one JOC official. The accommodation bill alone comes to 20 million yen.

To save athletes' time and energy, the International Olympic Committee reportedly wants future host cities to establish satellite villages or alternative accommodation if venues are located more than 50 kilometers away from the Olympic Village. (Kyodo News)

(February 11, 1998)