LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) _ A former Olympic skier from Japan was appointed Thursday as head of the panel that will evaluate the six bids for the 2006 Winter Games.

The appointment of IOC executive board member Chiharu Igaya as chairman of the Evaluation Commission was announced by International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Igaya, who won the silver medal in slalom at the 1956 Winter Games, heads the panel that also includes U.S. Olympic Committee president William Hybl, IOC members Walter Troeger of Germany and Gunilla Lindberg of Sweden, and Russian Olympic Committee official Alexander Kozlovsky.

The 13-member panel will visit the bidding sites and prepare a report assessing plans for financing, construction, venues, accommodation, sponsorship and other key items.

The six bids are all from Europe. They are Helsinki, Finland, bidding together with Lillehammer Norway; Klagenfurt, Austria, together with regions in Slovenia and Italy; Sion, Switzerland; Poprad-Tatry, Slovakia; Turin, Italy; and Zakopane, Poland.

The full IOC will select the host city on June 19, 1999, during its session in Seoul, South Korea.

The evaluation commission includes representatives of the IOC, national Olympic committees and international federations, as well as environmental, legal and financial specialists.