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VISA Olympics Art Contest Underway

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Although the 1998 Winter Olympic Games are six months away, the Olympic spirit is already taking hold as children throughout the nation gear-up for the Visa Olympics of the Imagination international art contest. Like the exceptional athletic skills of Olympic competitors, these children’s artistic talents and imaginations can take them all the way to the Nagano Games.

The Visa Olympics of the Imagination international art contest challenges schoolchildren between the ages of 9 and 13 years old to create artwork that shows a person they admire participating in an Olympic Winter Games sport. No restriction is placed on imagination, so family members, movies stars, political figures, teachers and, in fact, the whole spectrum of people familiar to the young artists are fair game to their paints and brushes.

In addition to the United States, contest entries are being collected in India, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Germany, Sweden and Norway. Each of the 14 different nations is tailoring the contest differently. In the United States, artwork will be collected between August 15, 1997 and November 3, 1997. The San Francisco-based not-for-profit organization, International Children’s Art Museum (ICAM) is coordinating outreach to 3,500 schools and the collection and judging of entries. Judging of entries from the United States — based on originality, imagination and artistic merit — will be conducted by a prestigious panel of judges from the art community, as well as representatives from ICAM and local celebrities.

Four children from the United States, along with one parent or guardian each, will attend the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan from February 5 – 11, 1998, as guests of Visa. While in Nagano, the winning artists from the United States will join 22 other children from around the world at the Opening Ceremonies and as spectators at Olympic events such as Figure Skating and Speed Skating. During their stay, the children will also be involved in a number of Japanese cultural activities and exchanges.

On the evening of February 7, 1998, Visa will unveil an outdoor exhibit of the children’s art and, at a special medal ceremony hosted by a past Winter Olympian, will award gold medals to the children and name one top winner whose artwork has been chosen from among the 1998 grand prize winners as “Best of Show” for artistic merit. The “Best of Show” winner will earn a trip for two to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Rachel Carter, 13, of New Zealand, was awarded “Best of Show” during the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games and will accompany this year’s winners to the Nagano Games.

Additional information on the Visa Olympics of the Imagination, including submission information, is available by calling ICAM at 415-772-9977, or by accessing the Visa Olympics of the Imagination Internet site, at http://www.visa.com/visakids/. The site features a teacher’s guide that integrates the contest into the classroom, artwork from past winners, a downloadable screensaver, and a children’s Olympic trivia quiz.

Founded in 1972, the International Children’s Art Museum’s mission of broadening viewer’s perspectives on art and world cultures through children’s art drives its annual exchange of over 10,000 pieces of children’s artwork worldwide and its permanent collection of children’s artwork at the International Children’s Art Museum in San Francisco.

Visa, a worldwide sponsor of the Olympic Games since 1986, is the official payment system of the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, and will continue as the exclusive card and official payment system for the 2000 Olympic Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.

Visa is the preferred payment brand and the largest consumer payment system worldwide. It plays a pivotal role in advancing new payment products and technologies to benefit its 21,000 member financial institutions, their cardholders, and the global economy. Visa is the only consumer payment system to facilitate $1 trillion worth of purchases of goods and services in a fiscal year. Visa’s nearly 600 million cards are accepted at more than 14 million worldwide locations, including 370,000 ATMs in the Visa/PLUS Global ATM Network. Visa’s Internet address in http://www.visa.com

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