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Friday, October 31, 1997 Published at 08:30 GMT


Olympic skiers could have snow-where to go

A winter Olympics without ski-ing?

It seems inconceivable, but that's the prospect at Nagano in Japan next February unless a row about the downhill course is resolved.

The International Ski-ing Federation has threatened to withdraw all ski-ing disciplines from the Games unless it gets its way and the course is extended up the mountain.

The local organisers are refusing on environmental grounds because the extension would be routed through a national park.

Later, the Federation's President, Marc Hodler, appeared to play down the withdrawal threat.

[ image: Marc Hodler]
Marc Hodler
He said his comments had not been serious, which had been made in case Games organisers went ahead with a plan to ban recreational skiing above the disputed start of the downhill.

The FIS says the current downhill course is too short to be a true Olympic test, while objectors says raising the start would break Japanese environmental laws by putting it into a national park, even though recreational skiers already use the area.

The director-general of the Nagano Organising Committee, Makoto Kobayashi, did not want to comment directly on Hodler's statements.

But he did say that the plan to stop recreational skiing in the national park came from the International Olympic Committee President, Juan Samaranch, when he appealed support in Barcelona on Sunday.

"It was President Samaranch who advised us to try to prohibit skiing in the area above 1,680 metres and we have been working on trying to implement this in the interests of the environment and of an amicable settlement to the dispute," he said.

But Hodler sent Kobayashi a fax earlier this week urging NAOC to not continue with those plans.

"President Samaranch informs me of his meeting with you. Please do not proceed with your plan to prohibit not only Olympic competitions but also all kinds of skiing above 1,680 metres.

"They would be received as a declaration of open war against winter sports in general and skiing in particular," the fax said.

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