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More Snow, Postponements in Japan

February 10, 1998

HAKUBA, Japan (AP) _ More than 2 feet of snow in three days blanketed Nagano and its mountains with snow, slush and silence, frustrating athletes and Olympic schedule-makers with an overdose of winter.

For the third straight day, an Alpine event on the Happo’one course was postponed by the storm that piled up 8 new inches of snow overnight. This time, it was the women’s super-G, meaning that it would be at least another 24 hours before an Alpine medal would be awarded.

That annoyed American skiier Picabo Street, who was supposed to make her 1998 Olympic debut in the event Tuesday (Monday night EST).

``You want snow because it’s a winter event, but it’s like `WE’VE GOT ENOUGH NOW, THANK YOU,‴ she said, cupping her hands around her mouth and shouting into the driving snow.

Unlike Monday, however, when more than a foot of new snow wiped out women’s snowboarding and the slalom portion of the men’s combined, both those events got under way.

Rosey Flatcher, the first of four American snowboarders to wipe out on the Mount Yakebitai course, said she was not sure the race should have been run at all.

``I just think for a high-caliber race like this, the snow conditions should be top.″

On the Happo’one course, drifts piled up on empty bleachers, heavy equipment crawled along to groom the ski runs, and soldiers labored with bright yellow shovels to clear snow from safety areas along Day-Glo orange fencing.

About 5 inches blanketed downtown Nagano, where only last week streets and sidewalks were dry and it was difficult to find any remnants of previous snowfalls.

Snowplows were out in force, clearing the roads for the many buses snaking through the Olympic city. Ko Yamaguchi, spokesman for the organizing committee, said snowplows and work teams are mobilized whenever there is a threat of 2 1/2 inches or more of snow.

Olympic organizers said there was plenty of room in the schedule to accommodate the postponements.

``As the IOC, we are confident,″ said spokeswoman Michele Verdier. ``There is nothing abnormal or unusual. The Winter Games are held on snow and ice.″

``We are confident that all the program will be held,″ she added. ``We still have many days to go before the competitions are to end.″

Organizing committee spokesman Ko Yamaguchi said refunds would be given to people holding tickets to postponed events. The decision was made because the disruption caused by the weather ``has been greater than expected.″

Thirty minutes before the men’s combined got under way on Happo’one, there were just three people at the finish line. One of them, a Japanese woman, waved a tiny plastic Swiss flag and held a sign that said ``Go Bruno Kernin.″

Kernin tumbled off the course on the first run and was out of the race.

The heavy snowfall greatly reduced visibility and made it tough for the men’s combined skiers to turn sharply around the 55 gates on the course.

The combined slalom is just half of the combined event, which also includes a downhill. The combined downhill is set for Thursday (Wednesday night EST).

There was no immediate word on when the women’s super-G would be rescheduled.

The men’s downhill, which was wiped out by snow and fog on Sunday, was still planned for Wednesday (Tuesday night EST).

The snow was expected to continue all day in the mountains, and Yamaguchi said more might be on the way for the weekend.

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