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Nagano driving some folks nuts

The 1998 Winter Games are barely underway, and already organizers are struggling with problems transporting the thousands of reporters and photographers here from around the world.

Transportation was one of the biggest complaints about the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. Drivers unfamiliar with Atlanta got lost, and organizers underestimated the number of buses needed for the media.Nagano organizers promised well-trained drivers and a fleet of 1,000 buses. That might not be enough, given the difficulties reported in getting the press to Saturday's opening ceremonies.

"The transportation system is not perfect. We've asked the service to increase," Nagano Organizing Committee spokesman Ko Yamaguchi told reporters Sunday. "I think it's a problem simply of the management of the buses."

Twenty-six buses were added to the fleet for Saturday's opening ceremonies, but that wasn't enough to handle the hoard of media trying to get to and from Minami Sports Park, site of the cherry blossom-shaped stadium.

Part of the problem was that roads surrounding the stadium had to remain clear until the Emperor and Empress of Japan were safely whisked away. The Emperor officially declared the Games open at the end of the ceremonies.

But the royal couple stayed for another 15 minutes or so after the program ended to greet some of the participants, including land-mine victim Chris Moon, who helped carry the Olympic flame into the stadium.

The International Olympic Committee is monitoring the situation. Besides the media, organizers of an Olympic Games must also provide transportation for IOC members and other Olympic officials as well as athletes.

"We're aware of some problems you are encountering," IOC spokes-woman Michele Verdier said Sunday. The topic will be dealt with at Monday morning's IOC Coordination Commission meeting with Nagano organizers.

Also Sunday, Yamaguchi reported that the number of visits to the official Nagano Organizing Committee website (http://www.nagano.olympic.org/) has hit 19.6 million as of Saturday. Atlanta's official website had 17 million hits.