Winter Olympics: Protests from the heart on opening day

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The Independent Online
THE president of the organising committee announced at yesterday's opening ceremony that the XVIIIth Winter Olympics had set the concept of "Games from the Heart - Together with Love". His message was not taken to heart by every Nagano citizen as anti-Games demonstrators took the opportunity to put across their own message.

In the main thoroughfare of the Chudoki, several hundred people gathered to protest at the cost of the Games to the local population. Sister Monica Nokamura, a spokeswoman for the Anti-Olympics Peoples' Network, said that the loan taken out for the Games meant a debt of 3.6 million yen for every Nagano citizen, which would mean higher taxes.

Protest of a far more vociferous nature occurred in the area of the Asahi media village as a white van drove along the streets playing a recorded message of abuse aimed at the Olympic movement in general and its president in particular. "Samaranch, go home," the loudspeaker blared. "Samaranch, you motherf-er, you arsehole, go home. All you motherf-ers go home, you bloody bastards, you all have s-t for brains."

The protest went on for at least half-an-hour, as plain clothes policemen shadowed the vehicle but did not act to prevent the abuse being replayed repeatedly at high volume. The ceremony at the Minami Nagano Sports Park went according to plan.

The flame was lit by Midori Ito, the former Olympic silver medallist in figure skating, after the torch had been carried into the stadium by relay runners including Chris Moon, Britain's disabled anti-land mine activist.

The British flag was carried by Michael Dixon, who will compete in the biathlon here in what will be his fifth Games. Fears over transport problems at the Games, which have been voiced all week, receded a little with yesterday's police statement that traffic on the opening day was 40 per cent below the level of the previous week.

The change followed earlier police restrictions on traffic flow. "This is thanks to the co- operation of Nagano citizens," said a police spokesman.

Japanese satisfaction at the way the opening ceremony passed off was diminished later in the day by the 3-1 defeat of their ice hockey team by Germany in the first series of preliminary matches. The qualifiers will go on to meet the seeded teams next Friday.

The home side were 1-0 down in the second period, but sent the spectators at the Big Hat stadium into a frenzy with an equaliser in the third period, but fell to two late German goals.

Britain's Graham Bell crashed out of his final practice run for the downhill alpine skiing scheduled for this morning.

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