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Lilly Hammer Arranges Her Own Winter Games

January 26, 1994

LILLEHAMMER, Norway (AP) _ The Lilly Hammer Winter Games are due to open on Saturday, and 35 people are expected to turn up.

Don’t confuse the Lilly Hammer Games with the Lillehammer Olympics, which begin on Feb. 12 in southeastern Norway, even though a lot of non-Norwegians think the names sound the same.

A pronunciation mistake was the reason 49-year-old Lilly Hammer decided to host her own Olympics in the western Norway village of Ulvik on the Hardanger fjord, about 100 miles from the west coast city of Bergen.

When International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch announced in 1988 that Norway had been chosen to host the 1994 Winter Olympics, he prounced the winner as ″Lillyhammer.″

The correct pronunciation is Lill-uh-hammer.

″When he made the announcement, he got the name of the town wrong, but he said my name perfectly,″ Mrs. Hammer said by telephone from Ulvik. ″So I had no choice. I had to host the Olympics.″

Mrs. Hammer, who runs a small bed and breakfast in the summer resort town of 1,200 people, said she has been teased a lot.

″People can’t help it,″ she said. ″And there probably aren’t many people who have the same name as an Olympic city. I think it’s great fun.″

The Lilly Hammer Games, involving Mrs. Hammers’ friends and family, will be brief - just Saturday evening.

″We have a relay of one torch bearer who will light the flame for our Olympics,″ she said.

In addition, she has prepared an Olympic oath in which the participants promise to have fun in the snow.

Events include the Lilly Hammer biathlon, in which contestants on tiny skis throw snowballs at targets. There will also be cross-country ski races, with three people on each pair of skis, and the Lilly Hammer equivalent of bobsledding, running sleds down a steep hill.

″This year we have a lot of snow, it’s about a meter (three feet) deep,″ Mrs. Hammer said. ″That’s very unusual, because this is very much a summer place. Hardly anything goes on here in the wintertime.″

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