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LOOKING AHEAD

Upcoming Olympics

Site of '96 Summer Games Atlanta

Site of '98 Winter Games Nagano, Japan

Next stop, Atlanta - then Nagano

The next Olympics will be the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.

You're probably familiar with that city, so here's some background on the site of the next Winter Games: Nagano, Japan.

Long time, no see: The last time the Winter Games were held in Asia was in 1972 at Sapporo, Japan.

The site: Located about 110 miles northwest of Tokyo. Established in the 12th century as the supporting town for an ancient Buddhist temple and called Zenkoji. With a population 342,647, it is the eighth-smallest of Japan's 47 prefectural seats in terms of the concentration of population in the capital city. This perfecture is centrally located on Honshu, the main island of Japan, and is called the Roof of Japan because the highest mountain range, the Japan Alps (11 peaks are 10,000 feet in height) lie on its eastern boundary. The whole area is about 7,000 feet high with four national parks, lakes, highlands and hot springs.

The official mascots: Four owls called Snowlets. The four owls, along with an owl as the games emblem, will be the main force in marketing activities. The mascot owls will symbolize the game's general theme of "symbiosis with nature." The owls were designed by an American company. The name Snowlets was made up by three words -- snow, let's and owlets.

You say goodbye

To some old pros turned temporary amateurs -- Russian figure skaters (and Tampa homeowners) Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, gold medalists in pairs; British ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, bronze; Canadian men's figure skater Kurt Browning, fifth; U.S. men's figure skater Brian Boitano, sixth; and German women's figure skater Katarina Witt, seventh.

And we say hello

To some youngsters with a future -- U.S. women's figure skating alternate Michelle Kwan, 13, and Nicole Bobek, 16; U.S. cross- country skier Todd Lowick, 17, who was 13th in Nordic combined individual and 12th in team ski-jumping; the South Korean women's short track speed skating team, average age 16.5, including two youngest ever Winter Games gold medalists, Kim Yoon-Mi, 13, and Won Hye-Kyung, 14; Christine Scheels, a high school junior from New Berlin, Wis., 21st in women's 3,000-meters speed skating; U.S. ski jumper Randy Weber, 44th in 90-meter event and 53rd in 120; Ukraine's Oksana Baiul, 16, women's figure skating gold medalist; China's Chen Lu, 17, women's figure skating bronze medalist; France's Surya Bonaly 20, fourth in women's figure skating; Norway's Thomas Alsgaard, 22, gold in 30K free cross-country skiing; Russia's Alexli Urmanov, 20, gold medalist in men's figure skating; Katja Koren of Slovenia, 18, bronze medalist in women's slalom.

Get your snowboards ready

What's new: Curling and women's hockey will join the Winter Olympics in 1998. Snowboarding, skeleton and ski ballet may be there, too. After decades of trying to get on the program and serving as a demonstration sport in 1988 and '92, curling finally succeeded in gaining medal status. For the uninitiated, it's sort of a combination of bowling, croquet and sweeping on ice. It wasn't played at these Olympics. The other new sport at Nagano is women's ice hockey, with six teams -- half as large as the men's field. If any sport has a chance to get added, it might besnowboarding. And if Salt Lake City in the snow-board-crazy West is picked as the site for the 2002 Games -- its considered the favorite -- snowboarding could make the list. Another possibleaddition is "skeleton" -- luge in reverse. Participants lie face-down on their sleds, with their heads at the front, rather than feet first on their backs. The bobsled and luge federations have made a joint request to add skeleton to the program and prospects are good, since no additional facilities would be needed.

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