Acciarri, M (reprint author), IST NAZL FIS NUCL, VIA CELORIA 16, I-20133 MILAN, ITALY.
We present a study of the structure of hadronic events recorded by the L3 detector at LEP at the center of mass energies of 161 and 172 GeV. The data sample corresponds to an integrated luminosity of 21.25 pb(-1) collected during the high energy runs of 1996, The distributions of event shape variables and the energy dependence of their mean values are well reproduced by QCD models. From a comparison of the data with resummed O(alpha(s)(2)) QCD calculations, we determine the strong coupling constant at the two energies. Combining this with our earlier measurements we find that the strong coupling constant decreases with increasing energy as expected in QCD. (C) 1997 Published by Elsevier Science B.V.