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Clearwater's sister plans '98 games

Lillehammer was a little spot on the map of Norway, a snowy place that managed to snag the 1994 Winter Olympics. Then came Nancy and Tonya and the talk shows, and, well, Lillehammer suddenly was the center of the known world.

Now that the Lillehammer Games are history, the scene begins to shift to a little-known city in Japan.

Little-known in these parts, that is, except to Clearwater city officials.

Nagano, Japan, host of the Winter Olympics in 1998, has for 35 years been Clearwater's sister city. The cities have exchanged students, officials and trinkets throughout their relationship.

Clearwater has not made plans for anything related to the Nagano Olympics, Mayor Rita Garvey said Monday. She said she would like to visit the city before the Games to observe its planning, but she said she didn't think she could talk the City Commission into paying for such a trip.

Still, she said she was sure she would make it to Nagano for the games.

"My husband and I are going whether I'm mayor or not," she said.

Nagano Mayor Tasuku Tsukada plans to visit Clearwater in November to help mark the 35th anniversary of the sister city relationship. Tsukada, in a letter this month, also said he would accept four high school students from Clearwater for the month of July and would send four high-schoolers from Nagano to Clearwater in August.

Nagano is about 110 miles northwest of Tokyo on Honshu, the main island of Japan. It is near the Japan Alps, which have 11 peaks 10,000 feet high. Nagano has a population of 342,647.