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Mayor Defends $10 Billion Price Tag of Games

By Eric Talmadge
Associated Press
Monday, February 2, 1998; 6:30 a.m. EST

NAGANO, Japan — The mayor of Nagano acknowledged today that the Winter Olympics are costing the city 20 percent more than expected.

The total cost of Olympic-related spending for the Nagano Games, including several major highway and railway projects, is expected to top $10 billion, making them perhaps the most expensive games ever.

Mayor Tasuku Tsukada did not give a breakdown of all the costs for the games, which begin Saturday. But he said Nagano has invested $693 million on the construction of five major facilities inside the city limits — about 20 percent higher than initial forecasts.

The Nagano Olympics are expected to be the largest Winter Games ever, with more than 2,400 athletes from 72 countries. They are also to feature three new sports: curling, snowboarding and women's hockey.

When Nagano was chosen as host in 1991, organizers estimated the games' operating costs to the city at about $608 million. That has swollen to $824 million now.

Tsukada said better-than-expected ticket sales and revenues for sponsorships and broadcasting rights should compensate for that, however.

He also denied criticism that the facilities will be of little use after the games, or that the money might better have been spent on projects for the elderly or on schools.

Organizers already have lined up several post-Olympic international competitions at the main speedskating venue. One ice rink will be converted into a public pool, and the main press center will be used for conventions and international conferences.

"There is no need for concern,'' he said. "The facilities will be put to sufficient use.''

Tsukada said the construction of highways and an express railway, much of which was paid for by the national government, will also bring a significant economic windfall to Nagano.

"For our city, hosting the games is very beneficial,'' Tsukada said. "It is a major intangible investment for the future.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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