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S.L. looking closely at Nagano village

It's smaller and more stark than the Olympic Village planned at the University of Utah, but this compound of high-rise apartments is still home to athletes here at the 1998 Winter Games.

Organizers of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City hope to provide a cozier, homier atmosphere for the 3,500 athletes and officials who'll occupy the new dorms on the university's share of Fort Douglas.The buildings at the suburban Imai New Town residential complex are, well, functional. The cluster of multistory units housing some 3,000 athletes and officials will be converted into apartments for government workers.

Other facilities are temporary, including a medical clinic, workout area and a collection of shops and service providers where athletes congregate that's known as the international zone.

"It's efficient," Salt Lake Organizing Committee housing consultant Steve Kittell said. "The people who are staying here are pleased with it. That said, there's no particular flavor or soul to this village, no defining element."

SLOC Olympic Village Director Richard Tyler said the U. site will be about twice the size of Nagano's Olympic Village and utilize many of the historic Fort Douglas buildings.

"We're in a culture where simplicity is everything," Tyler said of Japan. "We hope that what we're going to get built at the U. matches the character of the (historic) area. . . .We want to preserve that."

Kittell and Tyler, who were in charge of the Olympic Village in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Games, gave members of the Utah media a tour of the Nagano housing Wednesday.

The pair are trying to figure out what's going to be needed during the 2002 Winter Games since the organizing committee is required to pick up the tab for athlete housing.

The organizing committee has agreed to pay the U. $28 million to use the dorms during the 2002 Games. The rest of the money for the $110 million project will come from a bond issue yet to be approved by the Utah Legislature.

After the Olympics in Utah are over, the new three-story apartment-style buildings will be used by more than 2,500 students. The bond will be repaid from housing rental fees.

U.S. bobsledder Dan Steele, who trained at the Utah Winter Sports Park for the '98 Games, said Wednesday he wished it was easier to get to know athletes from other countries at Nagano's Olympic Village.

"I really didn't know what the village would be like. I thought we'd have more of a chance to mingle with international athletes," Steele said. "Everyone's on such a tight schedule with their events."

The village has few places for athletes to gather. Most of the athletes in the international zone Wednesday were crowded into the IBM "Surf Shack," a room full of computers hooked up to the Internet.

Steele was sending e-mail back home to the Quad Cities area of Illinois from a computer tucked into a corner of another Olympic sponsor area, a shop selling Mizuno sporting goods.

There's also a post office, bank, laundromat, general store, barber and beauty shop, travel agency, game room, camera shop, and even a combination disco and movie theater.

Nagano's Olympic Village is one of two built for the 1998 Winter Games. The other, located 90 minutes away in the resort community of Karuizawa, is home to some 120 athletes competing in curling matches there.

The U. will provide the only official housing for athletes in 2002, although the International Olympic Committee told Salt Lake City organizers they'd have to arrange for hotel rooms near Midway for biathlon and cross-country athletes.

That's because some nations have complained that Soldier Hollow in Wasatch Mountain State Park, the site chosen last year for the shooting and cross-country skiing competitions, is too far away from the university.