Monday, February 27, 2006

Wrapping up

For the better part of an hour I have been trying to come up with a plan for how I am going to relate the energy and excitement of the past several days. It is sad that I am only going to be able to give you bits and pieces. Like I did in the beginning I feel overwhelmed with choices of what to highlight and what to weed out from the Olympic experience.
Last week I felt like my coverage was getting too organized. I spent lost of time planning and sitting in the press center. After a few days of that in a row, I realized that that was what everyone else was doing. I wanted to get out there and experience everything I could for a few days, then come back to my laptop and spew it all out.
It’s been tough coming to Italy and not speaking the language. If I were able to speak a little Italian I could have asked tons more questions to local people about what it has been like hosting the Olympics. I tried a few shop keepers and old ladies on the street, and they either looked at me like I had two heads or they only spoke enough English to sell their wares. As soon as the conversation turned away from that it dissolved.
One woman that owned a small grocery store in the village of Sestriere said that she was very happy and that she had done as much business as she does all winter in these past three weeks. That sounded like a generous estimation to me, but the wealth that the Olympics has brought in to the various villages surrounding Torino, not to mention Torino itself, has been immense.
For Torino hosting the Olympics has forced the city to redefine itself, maybe even more than that, it has been a savior. Though the city has a dearth of history and culture before the Olympics it was taken for granted. Once a major hub of the Roman Empire the city is home to the largest collection of Egyptian art outside of Cairo. The shroud that Jesus was buried in is kept here in Torino, there is a good collection of modern and classical art, and the architecture is really beautiful if you can see through the smog.
The more modern side of Torino is the home of car manufacturer Fiat, and the company gives the city a definite industrial overtone. The city has also grown well beyond its original center, and high-rise apartment buildings lie on the outskirts. Torino is, as you have probably already heard, the largest city to ever host the Winter Games.
All throughout the Games, commercials have run on Italian TV highlighting the modern and classical beauty of the city. It’s duality is interesting, and the play on it world-wide has made an impression, I think. That’s the view from the inside anyway. I don’t know if that perception has made it out there.


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