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Closing Ceremonies Point to New Games

EVER wonder when an Olympics really closes its doors? In the case of Lillehammer, the local organizing committee anticipates gradually reducing its staff during the spring before a Sept. 1 shutdown. The organization is obliged to hand over all molds used to make the Olympic medals, as well as any extra medals, to the International Olympic Committee. Other observations:

* In view of the regular protests registered during short-track speed-skating events, the Olympics may have to examine what could be done to lessen controversies. Short-track is often compared to Roller Derby, and by accepting it onto the Olympic program, Games officials may have invited a tempest in a teapot. What might help the sport would be to lengthen straightaways for passing. The current dizzying format is not likely to change, though, as long as hockey-size rinks are used.

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* Freestyle Olympic skiers wore armbands during the moguls and aerial competitions in support of the missing ballet segment of the freestyle community. Ballet has attempted to make itself palatable to Olympic officials, but there is a reluctance to add events that are so subjectively judged.

* Anyone who doubts that ski jumping or cross-country skiing telecasts can be exciting should have heard the play-by-play announcers on Norwegian TV. They were as hysterical-sounding as any of their American basketball colleagues.

* Those wary that the Olympics are becoming too commercial may be interested to learn that at the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley, Calif., the ski bibs read ``Drink Coca Cola.'' Nothing so blatant is visible today.

* American journalists accustomed to conforming to the unwritten professional code of ``no cheering in the press box'' discovered that this standard is not universal. Nationalistic rooting was apparent among Europeans on press row in Lillehammer, and it surely will occur during the World Cup soccer tournament in the United States this summer.

* Billy Payne, the president of Atlanta's Olympic Organizing Committee, left Lillehammer impressed by the arrangements but also convinced that the training of volunteers is even more critical to the success of any Games than he realized. ``We'll embark on a training program unprecedented in the Olympics,'' he vowed, indicating that the timetable would be moved up for breaking in Atlanta's 40,000 volunteers. Lillehammer only enlisted 9,100.

* Curling and women's hockey will be added to the Winter Games in 1998. Curling, an oddly tame sport for the Olympics, nonetheless had moved into the picture as a demonstration sport at the 1988 and '92 Games. Women's hockey will start off with six teams, half the size of the men's field. Beyond the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, sports that reportedly have the best chances of joining the Olympic program are snowboarding and skeleton sled racing. The skeleton is basically luge racing in reverse, with the athletes lying chest down and face first. Luge/bobsled tracks are extremely expensive to build and maintain, so anything that would encourage greater use of these facilities would probably gain the ear of Olympic officials. If the Olympics are serious about encouraging greater use of the world's 11 artificially refrigerated sledding tracks, maybe they could start by adding women's two- and four-person bobsledding as well as women's luge doubles.

* To pass along the environmental ``torch'' lit by the Lillehammer Olympics to the 1998 Winter Games in Japan, the Norwegians have sent a six-person expedition team to Nagano. The team, comprised of a Russian, an American, a Japanese, and three Norwegians, appeared at Sunday's closing ceremony riding a sled drawn by 40 dogs. The ski-sled-and-sailboat journey is scheduled to end in September 1995 on rollerskis. The biggest challenge may come during a three-month stretch through a bitterly cold, sunless Siberia. The expedition members will wear special glasses in order to see in the dark.

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