Turin gearing up for the Winter Olympics

Turin – There was an extra spring in the mid-December step of the Turinese as they rushed through pre-Christmas shopping amid their city’s frenetic final push to host the XXth Olympic Winter Games starting on February 10. Turin ’06 will soon cease flying below the radar and unleash the sort of final-month promotional barrage that the Olympics seem uniquely capable of generating. The million or so visitors expected to swarm Italy’s northwestern pocket next month had better not count on gawking at Turin’s Sacra Sindone (Holy Shroud) during breaks in the action; the delicate and controversial relic is not expected to be on public view again until 2025. Even so, the city’s 18 kilometers of ornate porticos, elegant piazzas and snowy Alpine surroundings more than justify this latest stop on the quadrennial Winter Games and Paralympics roadshow, marking their first return to continental Europe since Albertville, France in 1992. Hydraulic drills at dawn in my hotel’s plastic-sheeted lobby – on a Sunday – were an unpleasant reminder of how pervasive such preparations can be in any city awaiting the world’s attention and press coverage. Yet the ice skaters at outdoor rinks, festive light displays and buzz in the crystalline air all lent a heightened sense of purpose and offered a tantalizing preview of the coming winter carnival, Italian-style. Even the more jaded locals could rest easier knowing the impending stampede will be only a temporary diversion from the civilized life.

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