Monday, January 30, 2006

Gearing up for the Games

I can feel my departure date coming like a train now - one that's moving fast. Part of me wants it to slow down, so I can be sure to organize everything. Another part of me wants to get there already!
We (the Stowe Reporter) have been preparing for the Olympics for what seems like the better part of a year now. As the Opening Ceremonies draw closer (Feb. 10, 8pm on NBC) my email inbox has been barraged with notes from friends and family to wish me well, press releases about athletes we'll be keeping an eye on and travel tips from the United States Olympic Committee. The lastest word from Italy is that snow, on the order of three feet, has finally come to the mountains. Before the snowfall workers were carting in snow to cover the dowhill track in Sestiere, now it seems they have an overabundance.

Our coverage in Torino will be three-fold.

1. This Blog, which I will update as often as possible. The Blog will serve as my daily journal. Log on and you could read about the dude I met on the bus ride to a ski jumping competition and see a picture of him, what the weather is doing or any other thing Olympic.

2. Web content. The Stowe Reporter will be updating the Olympic section of our website on a daily basis with interesting features. We want you to be there, hearing the crowds, slogging through the slush and witnessing amazing feats of athleticism. The website will also include links to schedules, results, television coverage and other interesting Olympic sites, plus bios on Vermont's "Great 8." Let the Stowe Reporter be your portal to the Torino Games.

3. The Olympics in Print. Each week, the Stowe Reporter will be devoting a section of the paper, published each Thursday, with Olympic content. Contact for subscriptions.

This will all happen assuming I don't forget important things like battery chargers and computer converters, and do not get swallowed up by this amorphous blob some are calling the Olympics. I am after all one small, rookie reporter diving into what is perhaps the biggest media event in the sporting world, and I am doing it alone.....Should be a blast.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Wengen slalom

Giorgio Rocca of Italy pulled off his fifth win in a row today in Wengen. After finishing the first run fourth, good fortune turned his way as first-run leader, Benjamin Raich, straddled the third gate, third-place Ted Ligety gave up time on his second run and German Alois Vogl also let up on the throttle.
Though it is the first time in a long while that one racer has won so many consecutive races, Rocca will need to win the next two to tie countryman Alberto Tomba who won seven in a row near the end of his career. Ingemar Stenmark holds the ultimate record with 14 giant slalom wins in a row.
For the U.S., Ligety landed fifth. He blazed through the first run, but a slightly ragged second run cost him. He still holds second in the slalom standings though. Bode Miller had a bright day coming in eigth. In the first run he slid though a gate on his hip and still managed to qualify for a second run easily. His second run was impressive in sections, but sketchy in others as he came close on the line risking it like he always does. When he came through the finish he was a second up, but was soon surpassed by guys in the top ten of the first run. Tom Rothrock also qualified for a second run from 41st, but looked off balance from the beginning and skied out at the top of the second run. Chip Knight, Erik Schlopy and Jimmy Cochran did not qualify for a second run. Knight was the closest of the three, and had a clean run that was just 19 hundreths too conservative.
Another stand-out performance came from Japan's Kentaro Minagawa, who placed fourth, a career best. His teammate, Akira Sasaki, went out in the first run after straddling a gate, and Minagawa carried the flag. His second run was exciting to watch. He has an all-out style and boot-topping tendency that is fast, when he can finish.

Men's slalom Wengen, Swtizerland
1.Giorgio Rocca 1:42.28
2.Kalle Pallander 1:42.48
3.Alois Vogl 1:42.79
4.Kentaro Minagawa 1:42.90
5.Ted Ligety 1:42.93

Friday, January 13, 2006

It’s good to be back in Wengen

There was a downhill training run here today in preparation for the 76th running of the famed Lauberhornrennen under the pristine skies of Wengen, Switzerland. But I’m not going to talk about that today.
Nor am I going to talk about the big press conference Bode Miller gave this afternoon during which he probably spoke more about his claim that he’s skied, even competed, while still drunk from the night before. I chose not to go to the press conference, and I’ll tell you why: Wengen is too beautiful a place, it was too nice a day and Bode isn’t the only one who has ever skied with a bad hangover.
Instead, I am going to tell you about the special place that provides the backdrop to one of the most beautiful places in the entire world.
The small village of Wengen sits atop a dramatic hanging valley. Sheer cliffs of rock and ice fall a thousand feet to the town of Lauterbrunnen. There are no cars here. The only way up is via a cog train, and before that was built a series of footpaths lead to the village.
The lack of automobiles only makes the picturesque village more old-world. The air seems crisper and at night the quiet is deafening, after the bars stop pumping euro techno that is.
Some say there are people in the town, living in some of the homes tucked away in the shadow of the Eiger, who have never been down to the valley.
It’s easy to imaging the place before the railway made it one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Switzerland, and to its credit Wengen has clung mostly traditional ideals.
A trip not to be missed is a ride to the “top of Europe”. Trains leaving from Wengen bring you way up through the rock face of the Eiger for a heart-stopping view of glacial beauty.
Also at the top is an ice palace carved out of the glacier. You can stroll through halls and rooms cut from the ice and look at a dozen or so ice sculptures.
Down in town during the races activity fluctuates between the finish area, about a mile away, and the center of the village where the awards are held.
In the morning on the way to the train one of the bakeries is set up making fresh jelly-filled Berliners, or donuts. Having come fresh from the fryer they are warm and steaming and cost just one Swiss franc.
On the way home the smell of roasted chestnuts fills the air, and people gather round for cups of gluwein, a warm very alcoholic wine and spice drink.
As the day turns into night bars fill and start pumping cheesy songs remixed to a harsh European beat. The bad music is excused though. Better the Swiss be known for natural gems like Wengen that are a treat to experience.