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Shoes or No? Officials Offer Few Guidelines

By Eric Talmadge
Associated Press
Friday, January 30, 1998; 7:41 a.m. EST

NAGANO, Japan — Take them off, leave them on, what?

Although organizers of the Nagano Winter Olympics have come up with guidelines for just about every possible situation during the games, they have apparently failed to sufficiently breech the shoe issue.

"Nobody has really said anything,'' said Christian Brown, a member of the Virgin Islands' bobsledding team and one of the first athletes to take up residence here.

"We thought we were going to have to keep taking them off all the time, but we're wearing them,'' he said.

An official at the games' residential service center said that, at the athletes village at least, shoes are okay.

In the media villages, however, they must be taken off. And for those athletes, VIPs and journalists staying at hotels or inns, it's all case-by-case.

Wearing shoes in homes in Japan is a serious faux pas, and once the Olympics are over, the high-rise complex built for the athletes will be converted into public housing.

So to protect the floors from the onslaught of footwear, the housing units at the athletes village have been carpeted. And organizers say the rooms will be completely remodeled after the athletes leave.

Once the Games get under way, about 3,000 athletes and officials will be staying at the village. As of today, there were 533 athletes from 41 countries in residence.

Early appraisals of the athletes village were generally good.

"I'm impressed,'' said Paul Zar, a teammate of Brown's. "I thought the rooms would be much smaller.''

Zar added, however, that not all has been well.

The Virgin Islands' team arrived last Thursday hoping to be able to hit the Spiral, the bobsledding competition venue, as early as possible. But their sled got caught up in customs.

"We thought the sled would be here before us,'' he said. "Today will be our first practice.''

That's not to say they haven't had anything to do in the meantime.

Organizers have gone out of their way to keep the athletes from getting bored while not training or competing.

The village has a large video game arcade, a disco (one of only two in all of Nagano), and an Internet "Surf Shack,'' set up by Olympic sponsor IBM.

In the Internet room, athletes can set up personalized home pages and receive fan mail.

"Everything's right,'' German hockey player Brad Bergen said. "No problems.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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