Bobsleigh and luge track in Nagano to effectively close

NAGANO, Japan (The Japan News/ANN) - Infrastucture from the 1998 Nagano Games has become a burden to the local community due to high maintenance costs. 

The nation’s sole bobsleigh track, located in Nagano, will be closed as an athletic facility after next year’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, according to the Nagano city government. 

Local residents had called for the Bobsleigh and Luge Track, also known as the Spiral, to be maintained as a legacy of the 1998 Nagano Games, during which it was the venue for the bobsleigh and luge events. However, the annual maintenance cost of ¥220 million (US$1,998,400) has been a headache for the local government.

The Nagano city government will likely continue operating the track during the summer for those who want to use it for training and other purposes.

The Spiral was completed in March 1996 at a cost of ¥10.1 billion (US$91,744,764). The 1,700-metre-course was used for international competitions and other events after the Nagano Olympics.

The central government designated the track as a national training facility in 2007 and has paid the city government a subsidy of about ¥100 million (US$908,364) every year to maintain it. The city government has annually contributed ¥120 million (US$1,090,036).

However, the training designation will be terminated at the end of fiscal 2017 following the Pyeongchang Olympics. A city government panel created to consider the issue therefore said this February that it would be appropriate to “partially close” the Spiral by not cooling the course anymore and having it only open during summer.

“It will be difficult to find more people to do these sports and to improve the athletes’ ability,” said Tatsuo Matsuhashi, managing director of the Nagano-based Japan Bobsleigh-Luge and Skeleton Federation.

“Top athletes train overseas during the season. The closure will affect the younger generations, who cannot do that,” said skeleton athlete Eiko Nakayama, 46, who competed in the 2002 Salt Lake and the 2006 Turin Games.