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First Official Venue Opens; Makeshift Restaurants Ready

January 22, 1994

LILLEHAMMER, Norway (AP) _ The competition doesn’t start for three weeks, but already the first official Olympic venue to be fully staffed for the 1994 Winter Games is up and running.

The main accreditation center for the Feb. 12-27 Games opened last weekend. The center is prepared to photograph and make ID cards for about 40,000 people, including athletes, coaches, volunteers and the news media.

Venue manager Linda Vavik said the center can handle about 500 people an hour. As many as 10,000 people may have to be accredited during the final three days before the Games.

″Flexibility is the key,″ she said.

Others in Lillehammer, population 23,000, also were gearing up for what they expect to a hungry influx of visitors. A giant tent where to up to 3,400 people can be served at a time is open, and local entrepreneurs were emptying their stores to turn them into makeshift restaurants.

Calle Rud, who runs a plumbing supply store, cleared out pipes and sinks to make room for 60 tables and chairs. He calls his temporary eatery the ″Cafe Rorlegger’n,″ which means ″Plumber’s Cafe″ in Norwegian.

Inside, Rud’s decorations include brightly colored toilet seats mounted on the walls.

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NORTHERN LIGHTS:. Even if the sky is cloudy during the Olympics, visitors will still be able to glimpse the aurora borealis, or northern lights.

An exhibition on the phenomenon opened at the Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee information center on Friday.

The shimmering lights, which are included on the official symbol of the Lillehammer Games, have awed Norwegians since Viking times.

In fact, the Vikings were the first to call the phenomenon ″Nororljos″ - the old Norse word for the northern lights.

Northern lights are caused by electrically charged particles, electrons and protons, colliding with gaseous particles about 60 miles above the Earth.

The collisions release tiny flashes, and are visible only near the North and South poles.

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MISSING KITCHEN:. When college student Elin Kristoffersen came home to her small apartment last weekend, she noticed something was missing.

Her kitchen.

Kristoffersen and two other students share an apartment that was built to house the news media during the Games. They have to move out by Jan. 27.

But harried work crews couldn’t wait. They tore out the kitchen, including the appliances, so they could turn it into an extra bedroom.

″I was a little surprised when I walked into the kitchen on Sunday,″ Kristoffersen said.

Kristoffersen said the crews had posted a notice on the apartment door Friday, but the three students had already left for the weekend.

Among the missing items: a freezer full of food.

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FROWN MACHINE:. A clever bracket that was supposed to help sometimes dour Norwegians smile for Olympic visitors has some people frowning instead.

Plans to distribute up to 80,000 smile brackets - basically two plastic hooks connected by an elastic band - were called off last autumn after the news media jumped the gun and revealed the idea.

Now an American, Dick Turner, is claiming the Norwegians stole the smile bracket concept from him and have turned it into a joke.

The Oslo newspaper Verdens Gang reports that Turner, of Baltimore, wrote to the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, saying he invented a nearly identical device, called ″The Smile Machine,″ three years ago, and began selling it about 18 months ago.

According to the newspaper, Turner wrote that ″the enormous press coverage of the Olympic smile-bracket copy has probably killed all futures markets for my original.″

The newspaper said Turner wanted compensation, such as an invitation to the Games in Lillehammer.

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OLYMPIAN UNEMPLOYMENT:. When the Lillehammer Games end Feb. 27, about half the people who worked full time arranging them will face another Herculean task: Finding a job.

The Oslo newspaper Aftenposten said 350 employees and contractors of the Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee have no jobs once the flame is extinguished.

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TORCH MAN:. Lumberjacks with a flare for the artistic felled hundreds of trees on a hillside to make a clearing in the shape of a stick-figure torch bearer, the symbol for the Lillehammer Olympics.

The project, near the town of Oyer outside Lillehammer, had environmentalists complaining that the clear-cutting of 10 acres of trees was needless damage.

However, Ole Vestad, of the local forestry association, said in a letter to the Lillehammer Tilskuer newspaper that the section of forest was due to be cut anyway, because the trees were old and had begun to rot.

″This was an ordinary harvest to renew the forest, even if the shape of the cut was a little unusual,″ he said.

END ADV for Weekend Editions Jan 22-23

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