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COMPETITORS SEND OUT THE BIG NAMES

If you want to impress the world's parliament of sports - the International Olympic Committee - then you show up at its meetings with some big-name royals, politicos and athletes.

At least that's the formula for success that Salt Lake City's two top competitors for the 1998 Winter Games - Nagano, Japan, and Ostersund, Sweden - are following.Interestingly, Utah's Olympic bid leaders are taking the opposite tack. They believe a delegation of hometown folks, sans celebrity glitz and big names, will help them better keep the personal touch on friendships they've made with IOC members over months of lobbying.

Utah's delegation to Birmingham, England, is being headlined with names like Gov. Norm Bangerter and Sen. Orrin Hatch - several steps down the protocol ladder from Ostersund's guest list, which reportedly will include His Royal Highness Prince Bertil, Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson and the country's Cabinet-level minister of sports, Ulf Lonnquist.

Swedish tennis idols Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander may also be there to woo the IOC, depending on tournament schedules, according to Kennet Kristiansson, information manager for Ostersund's bid committee.

Nagano has invited a similar high-powered entourage. Japan's Cabinet-level minister of education, culture and science, Yutaka Inoue, will be present along with skating sweetheart Midori Ito, who captured the heart of the world while skating in the 1988 Calgary Games.

Despite visits by Sweden's big names, Kristiansson said in a questionnaire that Ostersund will maintain a "low profile."

In one respect that's true. Ostersund is planning to send a delegation of 40 people. Salt Lake City is sending about 220 people, Nagano about 150.

However, Nagano's key benefactor and the person Forbes magazine calls the richest man in the world, Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, won't be attending, according to a bid representative contacted in Japan. Japan's prime minister and emperor won't be coming either. Both of those men were paraded before the IOC during its Tokyo meetings last September.

Soichiro "Sol" Yoshida, the American-educated head of the Nagano bid committee, said that Salt Lake City's weakness going into Birmingham is the fact that a number of Games have been and will be held in North America, including the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, the 1988 Calgary Winter Games and the 1996 Summer Games scheduled for Atlanta.

Kristiansson says the IOC vote may hinge on whether committee members want the Olympics in a large city. Salt Lake City would be the largest city ever to host the Winter Games. Traditionally, the Winter Games have gone to small villages or towns.

Kristiansson admits that Ostersund and Salt Lake City face a similar disadvantage - proximity to a future Olympic site. Salt Lake City is close to Atlanta, and Ostersund is close to Lillehammer, Norway, site of the 1994 Winter Games.