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Biggest winner at Olympics? Influenza

A flu going around Nagano has struck the athletes' Village, sickening about 200 people and forcing at least two athletes to pull out of the games.

The flu forced top German figure skater Tanja Szewczenko to withdraw Sunday from competition, after she was bed-ridden for five days with a high fever. It also prevented Norwegian speedskater Adne Sondral, gold medalist in the 1,500 meters, from skating in the 1,000.Canadian pairs figure skaters Marie-Claude Savard-Gagnon and Luc Bradet both caught the flu, said Janet Ames, chief medical officer for the Canadian team. Savard-Gagnon couldn't finish her routine, and the 1997 Canadian champions ended up in 16th place in the competition Tuesday.

No athletes on the U.S. team have been affected, but two coaches got the flu.

Through Thursday, the infirmary at the Olympic Village, where more than 3,000 athletes and officials are staying, had received 750 visits. Of those, 212 were for cold-like symptoms, and 61 people had a 99-degree fever or worse, doctors said.

In a mid-games report, the International Olympic Committee's medical commission said those treated for upper respiratory problems, including athletes, media and other staff, totaled 1,482.

ENOUGH ALREADY: The U.S. Olympic Committee's marketing chief would like to see a change in the way CBS is showing commercials during the Winter Olympics.

John Krimsky, the USOC's deputy secretary general and managing director for business affairs, says the telecasts are overrun with commercials that interrupt the flow of sports events for viewers.

"We recognize that the commercial networks have a right and a need to recoup the amounts they pay to the International Olympic Committee for rights fees," he said. "We just suggest that the networks perhaps should rethink the number of commercial breaks."

Krimsky said the USOC's Internet site has received more than 400 e-mails criticizing the amount of commercial time in the CBS Olympic shows.

However, Krimsky praised CBS' overall coverage of the Nagano Games. He said he was especially impressed with the network's graphics and flexibility in the face of repeated weather delays.

A LITTLE SOMETHING FOR THE EFFORT: The head of the International Olympic Committee met with a group representing the thousands of volunteers at the Nagano Games.

Juan Antonio Samaranch gave each of the 25 representatives a thank-you pin Sunday.

"I have to tell you the Olympic movement is very pleased and happy with the organizations," he told the group.

"I'm sure at the end of the games, we will give to these games what they deserve," he said, alluding to the tradition of praising the just-completed games as the best ever.

GOOD CROWDS: The first half of the Nagano Olympics drew 668,000 spectators.

Ko Yamaguchi, spokesman for the Nagano Olympic organizing committee, said ticket sales continued to be strong. Of the 58 events scheduled in the final week, 42 are sold out.

He said reimbursements for tickets unused due to the postponement of events were unlikely to have a big impact on the organizing committee's budget.

The games opened Feb. 7 and will run through Feb. 22.

TARA TAKES TO THE VILLAGE: How relaxed is Tara Lipinski?

The 15-year-old world champion figure skater says her Olympic training sessions are going well and she's having a ball in the athletes' village.

Normally, she would have headed back to the village between practice sessions. But Sunday, with less than two hours until her second session, Lipinski pulled out a needle and continued sewing a pillow.

She has been among the most amiable of athletes since getting here and has been seen at the arena for nearly every competitive session, seated with other American athletes.

"I'm glad I did it," Lipinski said. "I wouldn't want to come to this like it was worlds, or stay in a hotel or not come to opening ceremonies."

Lipinski will stay in her mother's hotel room Tuesday and Thursday, the nights before her short program and free skate.