Nagano Wishes Salt Lake Games Well
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Nagano Mayor Tasuku Tsukada says the Salt Lake games will endure an Olympic scandal and reap the rewards of the Olympic legacy.
``I’m sure you will be able to overcome the scandal and have successful Games, too,″ he said through an interpreter on Friday. ``The citizens of Salt Lake City will support the Olympic Games just like those in Nagano did.″
Tsukada shrugged off suggestions his city did anything improper in bidding for the Olympics, even though it has been revealed that Salt Lake bid officials gave cash payments, lavish gifts and scholarships to International Olympic Committee members and their families.
``As a host city, the most important thing to do is to host successful Games,″ he said. ``We did that. It’s over, and we didn’t have any problems.″
Three Nagano residents, led by former assemblyman Kaoru Iwata, are suing Tsukada, Nagano’s governor and the head of the Japanese Organizing Committee, to reveal how the Nagano bid team spent $6.9 million in taxpayer funds.
The city’s bid committee records were burned, but bidders acknowledged providing IOC officials with expensive trips, gifts and geisha companions in the campaign to win the 1998 Winter Games. Iwata’s group also sued the IOC, demanding reimbursement of the $6.9 million.
Tsukada presented city officials with an 8-foot-long origami sculpture of Salt Lake’s Olympic symbol constructed by Nagano high schoolers. He smiled as children from Hillside Intermediate played ``Oh Susannah″ on Japanese flutes. And he chuckled when Hawthorne Elementary student Kiesha Day winced about eating turtle soup.
He called the cultural connection part of the Olympic legacy and his trip to Utah was intended to see how the seeds of the ``One Country One School″ program started in Nagano have sprouted.
The program paired each Nagano elementary and middle school with a country participating in the Winter Games.
The idea was for students to learn about other countries through friendship before and after the Olympics.
About 40 Salt Lake Valley schools have picked up the program, which is being administered by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. Next year, SLOC will expand it to all 807 schools in the state, SLOC educational director Dianne Hesleph said.