CALGARY, FEB. 5 -- As athletes from around the world headed for Calgary, International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch officially opened two villages that will house competitors in the XV Winter Games.

The population at the main village was expected to double by the end of the day as the first large wave of athletes arrived. Another big group is due Saturday. The first U.S. athletes are scheduled to arrive Sunday, six days before the Games begin.

A total of 232 athletes and team officials from 27 countries had checked in to the main village by early today, village officials reported.

Samaranch, in his first public appearance since arriving in Calgary, praised the city during a 20-minute ceremony held in sub-zero temperatures outside the main village.

"On behalf of the Olympic family and the international Olympic family, we are very, very impressed with the Calgary Olympic village," Samaranch said. "You have worked hard for the future of Calgary and the future of the Olympic Games."

About 300 people attended the ceremony, which was repeated later at a smaller village an hour away where cross-country and biathlon competitors will be housed. Main village mayor Bob Niven and two athletes from Canada also spoke.

As the spirit of togetherness was being celebrated in Calgary, controversy continued in Lake Placid, N.Y., over the selection of football star Willie Gault for the U.S. bobsled team.

A top member of the team, brakeman Jim Herberich, told WCVB-TV in Boston he would refuse to compete if the Chicago Bears wide receiver was on the 12-man team, which was selected last week.

"He chose to bypass all the races during the season, which all the others competed in, yet he was still named to the team," Herberich said. "{It} has put team morale at an all-time low."

Gault blasted Herberich and insisted to television reporters that he made the team fairly.

"He's just one of those loud-mouth guys who likes to say a lot and speak his piece," Gault said.