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Underwater Tug of War Among Kids’ Visions of Future Olympic Sports

March 22, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ The children have spoken, and they have some unconventional ideas about what kind of sports should be in future Olympic Games.

But then so do the grown-ups who actually decide such things. Ballroom dancing has been recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee, the first step toward making it part of the Games.

Ballroom dancing has nothing on some of the winning entries in a contest that asked kids across the country to create artwork depicting their vision of a futuristic Olympic sport. Among the winners: Underwater Tug of War.

``I was just thinking that would be really different,″ said Katie Ornelas, 12, a sixth-grader at Walnut Hill Elementary School in Dallas.

In the sport, two swimmers are tied together at the ankles. As they swim in opposite directions, the winner drags the loser, said Katie, a swimmer and one of five children who won a trip to the Atlanta Games in the ``Olympics of the Imagination″ contest sponsored by Visa.

The other winners:

_ Maze, in which teams compete by working their way through a human-sized maze, created by Jessica Der of San Francisco.

_ Skin diving in the New Frontier, a combination of physical skills and environmental awareness, created by David Merlis, 12, of Atlanta.

_ Violence Solving, a game described as having ``no winners and no losers,″ created by Yair Rodriguez, 12, of Chicago.

_ Glide Bike Sandhill Slalom, in which competitors race futuristic ski-equipped bikes down sand dunes, created by Brandon Smith, 13, of Alta Loma, Calif.

The artwork, along with essays explaining how the imaginary events would promote peace and unity, will be exhibited during the Summer Games and used to create commemorative postcards. A similar contest was held for the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer.

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ROOM AT THE INN: More precious to some than a gold medal, hotel vacancies in and around Atlanta for the Olympics are starting to pop up.

Though prospective Olympic visitors have been told for months that all rooms in the area were already taken, at least 1,000 rooms are available, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday.

``We are reaching the point of a buyer’s market,″ said Jerry Attkisson, president of FJB Corp., an Atlanta real estate investment brokerage that is marketing large blocks of unsold rooms for several hotels.

What happened is that some corporations that booked blocks of rooms canceled, and some hotels that were holding rooms in hopes of huge demand by groups have been disappointed. Now these rooms are on the market.

For example, the Emory Conference Center Hotel just east of downtown Atlanta is offering 98 rooms during the Games for $225 a night.

Peachtree Executive Conference Center in Peachtree City, about 35 miles south of Atlanta, lost a booking of 250 rooms and is offering them at $199.80 a night.

The Callaway Gardens resort, about 1 1/2 hours west of Atlanta, has 349 rooms for $126.84 per night.

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BOOK SHELF: With the plethora of books about the Games now fighting for attention, how is an unknown Olympic author supposed to stand out from the pack?

With a catchy title, figures Edd Wheeler, an administrative law judge in Atlanta who has written a book on Olympic history called ``From Games of God to Bubba’s Field.″

Wheeler’s original working title was ``Higher, Faster, Further,″ which is akin to the names that usually adorn Olympic books. Wheeler decided that was too dull, but the former Bibb County, Ga., commissioner then worried the ``Bubba″ reference might offend fellow Southerners.

His publisher, HeathRow Press in Atlanta, liked it.

``The consensus was they thought it was funny,″ Wheeler said. `The people who might find it offensive probably wouldn’t read it anyway.″

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WHAT’S AHEAD: Official Olympic game show ``Wheel of Fortune″ begins taping three weeks worth of Games-related programs at Atlanta’s Fox Theater on Friday.

End advance for March 23-24

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