Blizzard of Paper Blankets Olympic Press
LILLEHAMMER, NORWAY — A STANDARD refrain Olympic-bound reporters hear from friends and associates is, ``I'll carry your bags.''
A more compelling offer might be: ``I'll organize your paperwork.''
That would be music to many a newsperson's ears, for the information blizzard begins the moment one first sets booted foot at the Winter Games.
Within a day of arriving, the knapsack bestowed upon media members cannot hold all the booklets, team guides, tourist materials, press releases, and sundry other printed materials issued or made available.
The relatively compact media guide, which includes the bus schedule for every conceivable Olympic connection, is nonetheless 287 pages. A separate telephone directory is a more svelte 152 pages.
As the paper chase snowballs, reporters engage in their own Olympic event: organizing and jettisoning pulp.
To make matters worse - or better, depending on one's perspective - the Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee offers a computerized information system, called Info '94, that finds reporters using a touch-screen technique to choose from among eight topics, including transportation, weather, biographies, calendar, and news.
Not all the ``news'' grabs you. Mixed in with all the latest developments in the Tonya Harding story, for example, was this entry: ``Donald Duck Comes to Town....'' Stop the presses!
Truth be known, Donald is coming to Lillehammer, but it's unlikely he'll make it to Hamar, this reporter's home away from home. With an estimated 8,000 media people on hand, not everyone can stay in Lillehammer itself (pop. 23,000). Some of us have been farmed out to satellite media housing villages.
The complex in Hamar bears the delightfully Norwegian name of Snekkerstua. Don't ask for a translation. A colleague says it sounds like a candy bar.
Be that as it may, the facility has the feel of a newly constructed ski resort, with knotty-pine walls and ceilings in small but comfortable rooms.
My living unit has eight rooms on two floors, and even before I met my immediate neighbor I was introduced to him through the wall, which is apparently uninsulated.
By the time every word of three phone conversations came unfiltered through the woodwork - even suitcase zippers were audible - I unavoidably had made his acquaintance.
The disadvantage to living in Hamar is that it is 63 kilometers (about 30 miles) away from Lillehammer and most reporters' preferred daily home base, the Main Press Center. The Snekkerstua-to-MPC trek takes an hour and a half each way.
Despite logistical complications that arise from quartering in Hamar, the speed-skating and figure-skating competitions have been awarded this community of 26,500 inhabitants.
Hamar, by the way, was founded by Viking King Harold III (the Ruthless) in 1049 and was a religious center and cathedral city for 300 years. The Reformation in the 17th century ended all that.