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Welcome to OnMilwaukee.com's Gran blog Torino 2006, where you can read postings by a group of writers in Milwaukee, Torino and Pinerolo during the 2006 Winter Olympics. We'll talk a little about sports, but also about the vibe surrounding the games and more. To learn more about the bloggers, click on the "Torino bloggers" link above. Post your comments at the bottom.
March 3, 2006
From now on Turin is finally Torino to the world! These Olympics were for Italy -- and particulary the Savoy capital of Torino, a great source of pride. Finally, the rest of the world has come to know a city always previously thought of as "icy, grey and home only to industry and Fiat." Recently, I have had the chance to meet many people who were surprised to find how vital and welcoming Torino is. "The Torinesi are nice and the city is very beautiful." The closing ceremony was memorable not only for the spectacle and the celebration of inimitable artists like Federico Fellini, but for the sweet melancholy brought on by the end of an event that brought joy everywhere, but especially to Torino, were we all lived and participated in the games with joy. "Arrivederci Torino and thanks for these two intense weeks of sport, ceremony and parties." This was the attitude of most of the guests, saluting the city of 2006. Now that everything has finished, Torino will maintain its desire to come out of the shadows and become the city that everyone now expects it to be. The fascination and the history of our city give us hope that the whole world noticed us. Much work is planned for the coming years and will make Torino shine even longer. There are still many visitors around the city. Many of the structures have been taken down, among them the "Casa America" on the banks of the Po River. Even the torch has been put out but it will remain part of the city's endowment as an indelible memory. It's likely that the enormous Gliz and Neve puppets will remain for the duration of 2006 at Porta Susa station and in Piazza Rivoli, at the request of the citizens. The next event will be the International Paralympics from March 10 through 19 and the protagonists with be the best disabled athletes from around the world. The 2006 Torino Olympics are already history. The lights don't seem to want to go out, though and we'll remember the Olympic flame that illuminated Torino.
Posted by Gloria Cardano at 8:44 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 27, 2006
Torino games dished up memorable moments
Well, the Torino Games are finally over. They weren't the most memorable Winter Olympics of all time, but they did have their moments. Here's a few of them:
Most Memorable American: Teenage snowboarder Shaun White. The "Flying Tomato" is a marketer's dream -- young, affable, funny, polite and a champion. He's the closest thing these Games have to an American rock star.
Most Overrated "Disappointment" : I love it when sportswriters express their disappointment with some athlete that didn't live up to his or her expectations. Case in point: the onslaught of negative press directed at Bode Miller. OK, so Miller was oh-fer in the Games -- so what? Are we really so upset about that? Or are we that offended that the guy likes to have a few beers and, gasp, talk about it (I bet someone at your job has already done this today in reference to his/her weekend activities)? We're such a bunch of hypocrites -- had he won a couple golds while "partying" like he said he did (which, in reality, was probably overblown -- two beers does not a party make), we would have lionized him like Babe Ruth. Look, a party dude who actually wins!
Here's a specific example: Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel, whom I generally respect, had this to say about Bode: "He isn't the first guy to waste a lot of God-given talent, sacrifice by others and good fortune, but it is still a sight to behold to watch someone who could have been great show up that out of shape, that disinterested and that determined to party."
But later in the same column, he also had this to say: "There are worse ways to spend an afternoon waiting for a colleague to finish writing than drinking tall glasses of Krombacher at the Pingini Bar in San Sicario overlooking the Alps."
And this: "The highlight of the night - besides the fact that I somehow wound up drinking beer with someone from the World Anti-Doping Agency - was finally..."
And this: "As for the wine? Better than advertised."
And he also weaved this anecdote in about an event that happened years earlier in Iceland (I'm serious): "Magnus was a monster and we talked for a few minutes. ... He offered to buy a round of drinks and asked if I would do a shot with him. Naturally, I thought it would be an honor."
So, Dan, are you anti-drinking or anti-guys who are more talented than you? Or anti-guys who are more talented than you drinking?
I really don't mean to single Wetzel out -- his contempt for Miller was echoed by every American journalist in Torino. Many wondered what sponsor Nike thought of the whole thing? My answer: who cares what Nike thinks about what Miller does!? Certainly not me. If he is milking Nike for millions of dollars, I am all for it. This isn't exactly Ken Lay-style corporate malfeasance. He didn't win a medal - get over it.
Most Over-Produced Ceremony: (tie) Opening and Closing ceremonies. Both cost far too much money and were way over-done. Though to be honest, I didn't watch much of either one. I'm not saying the introductions and gatherings aren't special for the athletes, but should the IOC spend as much money on the theatrics as they do every two years? Introduce the athletes, have a couple people speak about the Olympic ideal and give the rest of the money to charity. Or lower ticket prices.
Sport That Won Me Over: Short-track speedskating. If you've been reading these posts -- hi Mom! -- you know that I'm something of a Games traditionalist. But in addition to enjoying Shaun White's halfpipe victory and the snowboardcross event, I really liked the short-track events (the sport was introduced to the Games in 1992). The speed and skill involved is truly amazing. And, yeah, I even got caught up rooting for American Apolo Anton Ohno on Saturday. What can I say?
Best Website for Olympics Coverage: Despite my difference of opinion with Wetzel, I thought Yahoo! Sports did a great job with its Olympic coverage. If you haven't started using it as your main sports source instead of ESPN.com (with its streaming video you don't ask for, annoying humor columns and enormous/invasive ads), give it a shot. Of course, it doesn't have Bracketology, so I shouldn't get carried away.
Longest Blog Post of the Games, Personal: This one. So I should leave it at that. Talk to you in 2010 from Vancouver. I'm assuming OMC will send me to that one.
Posted by Tim Gutowski at 8:12 a.m. | Talkbacks
Torino will never be the same
The Olympics have ended and Torino willl never be the same. The city has rediscovered its pride as a cultural and sport capital and the Olympics have discovered that these events can no longer be held only in small mountain towns. Paradoxically, it was the greater use of television that helped make known every detail of the games and of the athletes, but at the same time it increased the desire to "live" the event in person. In this case Torino and its surroundings added its own culture to the perfect organization of the games. The only regrey: Italia could have had more medals and could have done better during the events. But the Olympic spirit and the resuscitation of winter sports were ample compensation.
Posted by Luigi Dellacroce at 8:01 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 25, 2006
Olympics have been lucky and beautiful
It snowed on the Olympic mountains. These Olympics have been, until today, very lucky because the weather has allowed for a good development of the games. There were few games postponed and the tracks were always excellent. The weather in the city has allowed the athletes and tourists to enjoy Torino and its beauties. The weather was also very good on the "white nights" Feb. 18 and 19 and the great success of that intiative was replicated on the 25th. In essence: beautiful and lucky Olympics!
Posted by Luigi Dellacroce at 8:12 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 24, 2006
Does the "ladies free skate" deserve so much attention?
The "ladies free skate" is always one of the television highlights of the Winter Games. Usually dominated by American skaters and oftentimes filled with natural drama (Tonya and Nancy's Skate-Gate, the "Will she or won't she?" status of Michelle Kwan, etc.), the race for women's skating excellence is literally gold in NBC's hands.
Tonight, American Sasha Cohen wiped out twice and took only silver, allowing Japan's Shizuka Arakawa to earn the gold. It was a "disappointing" finish for the 21-year-old Californian who looks like she's 14. Talk immediately turned to whether or not Cohen will be able to redeem herself in the 2010 Games. Yawn.
Figure skating can be a beautiful and graceful thing, and I don't want to degrade the athleticism and talent needed to compete at this level in the sport. But I also can't shake the nagging feeling that we're watching girls, not "ladies" ... certainly not "women." Half of them look petrified and all of them look like they're skipping study hall to be here. It feels particularly misguided to pay the event so much withering attention.
Does that go for all the Games? Or all sports, for that matter? Sure, but there is at least a safety net in other competitions, be it teammates to fall back on or -- at the very least -- a full uniform (helmet, pads, etc.) to hide within. In the "ladies free skate," it's just the ladies (if you will), an empty rink, a leotard and millions of judgmental eyeballs.
Posted by Tim Gutowksi at 8:15 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 23, 2006
Charming miscommunication at the Olympics
Many American tourists at the Olympics are making Piemontesi bus and taxi drivers happy. Why? Because they when they exit, they say "bye," which sounds just like the dialect word for "beautiful" and when they hear visitors saying it, it makes them proud to have been called beautiful. In one perfume and toiletries shop in the center of Torino a shopkeeper that loves to joke is saying to all the American tourists that ask for him for soap, "non sono zoppo, ho tutte e due le gambe che funzionano bene," which means "I'm not zoppo (which sounds like soap with an 'o' on the end), I have two legs that work fine." In Piemontese dialect, "zoppo" means lame in the sense of having a limp or a bad leg. One older gentleman of good height got mad recently when a tourist looking for the bus stop approached him and said "bus," which sounds like the Piemontese word for a short person!
Posted by Luigi Dellacroce at 8:50 a.m. | Talkbacks
Milwaukee gets a taste of Torino
An intimate group of diners toasted Torino Wednesday night thanks to Shaker's World Cafe, 422 S. 2nd St., in Walker's Point. The restaurant and bar has an ongoing series of fixed-price, multi-course meals that riff -- culinarily -- on a theme. The restaurant seized on the opportunity presented by the Torino Olympics to take a stab at a Piedmontese menu and invited Torino native Tony Mangione to preside over the affair.
Mangione, who lives in Rochester, N.Y. but has become something of an honorary Milwaukeean thanks to his many business trips here is treated like royalty at Shaker's and it's not too hard to see why the spirited, personable and entertaining Mangione is quick to make friends. He told me that of all the many places he visits in his work as a consulting in the manufacturing sector, Milwaukee is his favorite city and gets here as often as possible.
Dinner included Piedmontese classics like bagna caoda (a sauce of oil, butter, garlic and anchovies), zabaione (an egg-based custard dessert) and wines like barbera, moscato and nebbiolo. Most of the recipes came from Mangione's cousin, who owns a restaurant in Piedmont's Cuneo province. When Mangione told a story of noshing with friends, on the spur of the moment, on fresh mussels bought at the docks in the Italian riviera town of Sestri Levante, Shaker's boss Bob Weiss -- known to everyone as Bob-a-roo -- dashed into the kitchen and returned with a plate of mussels and snails and a supply of lemon wedges.
Informal and fun, these Shaker's dinners offer a great way to meet some new folks and try some new foods, if Wednesday was any indication. Best of all, it offered a chance for Milwaukee diners to make a rare visit to Piedmont.
Posted by Bobby Tanzilo at 8:20 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 22, 2006
Torinesi are accepting the rules of the game A curious thing happened in Torino during the Olympics. They were experimented with in the 2004 Olympics in Athens and in Torino the ÒOlympic lanesÓ were created. In the main streets of the city the lanes, marked in yellow and with the Olympic symbol, have appeared and during the games only taxis, public transportation and Olympic vehicles can use them. This revolutionary idea has, contrary to popular belief, not altered Torino traffic too much but has permitted the perfect functioning of the Olympic machine. In the past 12 days there were only 126 tickets written for violation of these preferential lanes and this confirms that TorinoÕs population has well accepted the games. And now with the fourth gold medal today, weÕre thinking about what great athletes we have!
Posted by Luigi Dellacroce at 3:25 p.m. | Talkbacks
Our magical white nights
On Saturday, Feb. Torino's magical nights will return after the success of the Feb. 18 historical "White Nights" event for the city's nightcrawlers. The evening saw the flow of thousands of people, wandering around the city center, from Piazza Castello to Piazza Vittorio, from the Quadrilatero neighborhood to the banks of the Po River. The Olympic Night was baptized and for the first time a "Notte Bianca" was planned and organized, during the Olympic Games, by the Region of Piedmont in collaboration with Trenitalia (the national railway).
From the afternooon of Feb. 18 and for the entire night, until dawn, Torino was aninated by countless events and displays adding to the alrady vast Olympic program. For the entire day it was an exceptional promotion -- available to all, but above all to the youth -- that came from all over Italy to breathe the festive air. "Notte Olimpica" offered an artistic and cultural program that highlighted the regional patrimony and, with that context, promoted meetings with the other cultures that thrive in our region. Among the many initiaves there were those of the Musem of the Mountain and the cinema museum, which were open until 1 a.m., and those of the different contemporary art museums open late. And there were concerts and shows: at the University for Torino Studies, with the participation of famous DJs (Les Tambours Du Bronx, Giorgio Valletta and Mauro Picotto played until dawn) and in many other popular clubs in the city. At Alcatraz on the riverfront "Murazzi" and in the Quadrilatero Romano neighborhood, video projections accompanied the music provided all night by DJs.
Let's not forget the Olympic Houses route, a tourist attraction and novelty for the Torinesi. In the areas in the city center, there were spaces that hosted the various nations, some visitable and others not. "Casa Sassonia," "Casa Russia," "Casa America," "Casa Italia," "Casa Olanda," "Casa Canada" and "Casa Svizzera" offered a chance to glimpse the traditions of each country as they interacted with each other. Every house offered its own culinary specialties to the visitors. In sum, Torino never stops and its attractions seem never-ending.
Posted by Gloria Cardano at 8:51 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 21, 2006
These games can't be thrilling to NHL
The NHL can't be too thrilled about the early results in the Torino Games.
While the Olympics usually provide the sport with a major shot in the arm and a ton of high-profile publicity, the 2006 Games have yet to provide such a spark. Yes, the league's players represent countries around the world, but its paying customers live in North America. And both Canada and the United States have been early disappointments.
The U.S. clinched a spot in the medal round this morning thanks to Latvia's 5-2 loss to Kazakhstan, earning at least fourth place in Group B for the 1-2-1 Americans (four teams in each group make the medal round, which is akin to the NBA playoffs for its exclusivity). But the U.S. team's offense has been anemic, scoring just 9 goals in four games prior to today's content with Russia (3-1-0).
The Canadians have been a more surprising disappointment (2-2-0). The heavy gold-medal favorites have been shut out in consecutive games by Switzerland and Finland, though they will also advance to the medal round.
Many still suspect our northern neighbors will steady themselves and skate to the gold, but it's been less than exhilarating thus far. And for the NHL, the Olympics have done little to solve its post-strike slowdown.
Posted by Tim Gutowski at 9:01 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 20, 2006
Olympics joy and pain
One of the top sports figures in Italy is multiple world champion motorcyclist Valentino Rossi, who upon arriving at the finish line always gives a little show. Now Rossi isn't alone. Skiier Cristian Zorzi, last on the 4x10 km relay team, made his own little spectacle with flags and smiles when he reached the finish line to win the gold medal.
On the other hand, the figure skating couple Fusar Poli-Margaglio, which was at the top of the standings, fell just three seconds from the end of their routine, landing in seventh place. It was a pity for two great athletes who suffered misfortune.
With joy for one and sadness for the others, Torino celebrated its "white night" Saturday night with concerts until 5 a.m. which drew more than 500,000 people.
Posted by Luigi Dellacroce at 12:39 p.m. | TalkbacksPiedmont on the world stage
Doping, disappointing performances for American athletes, TV coverage that isn't meeting expectations ... say what you will about Torino 2006, but for some of us -- even if we Piedmontese-Americans are a small slice of the U.S. population -- the Winter Olympics are providing a rare chance to see our region get some attention. We're used to seeing Rome and Florence and Venice and resigning ourselves to being overlooked in a country where most of Italian heritage hail from the southern half of the boot and Sicily.
Not only do people now know where Torino is, we can open the newspaper every day and see articles carrying datelines from Pragelato, Sauze d'Oulx, Torino and Bardoneccia. We can turn on the TV and see Piazza San Carlo and the Mole Antonelliana nearly all the time. We've seen TV coverage of Torino's cafe life, renowned chocolate makers and the delicious bicerin espresso, cream and chocolate drink. We've seen NBC stars walking the track atop Lingotto and watched press conferences in the Parco del Valentino and we even saw one reporter tasting wines in Asti and Barolo!
Hey, even some Milwaukee restaurants are serving Piedmontese food -- normally completely absent from Brew City -- during the Olympics!
So, whether or not we're obsessed with the medals table and the slalom results, we're more than a little excited to see Torino and Piedmont on the world stage.
Posted by Bobby Tanzilo at 11:08 a.m. | TalkbacksAs usual, controversy has found its way into the Olympic Games.
On Friday, it was American women's snowboard cross competitor Lindsey Jacobellis frittering away a gold with her "hot dog" maneuver on the penultimate jump in the final heat while nursing a large lead. She couldn't stick the landing, fell down and ended up taking the silver. Worse, she huddled with her coach afterwards before talking to the media, apparently in an attempt to concoct a story about what she was doing. Jacobellis appeared tortured in subsequent interviews, not only because she blew the gold, but because she was being told to lie about how it happened.
I believe the "showboating" charge is seriously overblown. First of all, the avalanche of stories and commentaries labeling it one of the biggest sports blunders of all time? Get real. This is not Bill Buckner letting a ball go through his legs in the 1986 World Series. This was a 20-year old snowboarder adding a slight bit of showmanship to her gold-medal run. She fell, and I'm sure she's sick over it. But if any of us remember her name by May, then we can start talking about all-time blunders.
Saturday, African-American Shani Davis took the gold in the 1,000-meter men's speedskating event, becoming the first black person to win an individual gold medal in the Winter Olympics. The controversy? He skipped out of the American team relay event earlier in the week to concentrate on the 1,000. I can understand his teammates being upset, but they also have to understand the personal significance that winning an individual medal held for Davis.
Finally, the weekend produced an actual scandal when a former Austrian ski coach accused of doping during the 2002 Games led police on a chase before crashing his car near Austria's border with Italy. Rumors that the coach, Walter Mayer, was in Torino with the Austrian team led to an Italian police raid on the Austrian biathlon and cross country teams' housing Saturday night. Allegedly, he was on his way home early Sunday when the crash occurred. Mayer is banned from participating in the Torino or 2010 Games after being suspected of doping in Salt Lake City. The Saturday raid has not yet led to any charges.
Posted by Tim Gutowski at 8:44 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 17, 2006
Success boosting Italian knowledge of some sports
The second gold medal for the Italian team at the Torino 2006 Olympics has arrived thanks to the men's speedskating team. The Italian trio beat Canada after overtaking Holland in the semifinal, following an unfortunate fall of one of the Dutch skaters. Great celebration, therefore, for all the Italian fans, especially because speedskating isn't a widespread sport iin Italy. There are only two venues for the sport and there are only 80 members of the sport's federation. But now this win boosts the possibilities, as has happened in curling, an Olympic sport which wasn't played much in Italy but at the Games is finding some unexpected success.
Posted by Luigi Dellacroce at 8:51 a.m. | TalkbacksGutowski is coming around
Maybe I'm starting to shed my curmudgeonly ways.
I watched the inaugural Winter Games snowboadcross last night on NBC, and I admit that it seems pretty cool. Basically a motocross race on a snowboard, the event features heats of four racers slaloming down a defined course. American Seth Wescott won the gold medal in an exciting final with Slovakian Radoslav Zidek.
Despite the entertainment value of the sport, it's difficult not to notice that the Americans tend to dominate all these new-wave sports. To wit, while the U.S. has nine overall medals (fourth place in the Games), five are in snowboarding, including three gold, more than any other country. It follows that these sports are also extremely marketable -- different than biathlon, say -- and conducive to earning high TV ratings. OK, so the Olympics is a cash cow, right? That fact doesn't surprise anybody anymore.
In men's figure skating, Russian Evgeni Plushenko easily claimed the gold to mark his nation's fifth straight Olympic victory in the event. American hopeful Johnny Weir had a bad free skate and finished out of medal contention after entering the night positioned for a silver.
Weir afterward: "I never felt comfortable in this building. I didn't feel my inner peace. I didn't feel my aura."
Tonight, it's the women's turn for the snowboardcross finals. Additionally, the men's skeleton final and the women's alpine combined will be featured this evening in primetime.
Posted by Tim Gutowski at 8:34 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 16, 2006
ItÕs obviously a shame that West Allis speedskater Chris Witty finished 28th in the 500-meters event on Wednesday, but so it seems to go for aging sports stars. Witty still will compete in the 1,000 meters and 1,500 meters later in the Games, but she isnÕt expected to fare much better in either race.
The conventional sentiment here is that Witty won just by participating in these Games (and carrying the American flag in the opening ceremonies), and that having a public forum to discuss her battles with child sexual abuse is more important than any skating results.
Of course, this is true. But she is an athlete, and we are fans -- and losing is never as good as winning. Losing badly, especially for a champion, is painful, regardless of the perspective one has gained along the way.
Dorfmeister!: On a lighter note, is there a more unfortunately named gold medalist than womenÕs downhill champion Michaela Dorfmeister? Forgive my petty ethnocentrism here for a moment, but her name sounds like itÕs straight out of one of those old SNL Òmaking copiesÓ skits with Rob Schneider: ÒThe Dorfmeister. Winning the downhill. Taking the goooo-ld. Bringing home the hardware to the Dorfmeister clan. Dorf-o-rama.Ó
Posted by Tim Gutowski at 9:40 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 15, 2006
The dream of a city
Torino is partying. Last Friday, Feb. 10, the opening ceremony of the 206 Winter Olympics launched a series of events and parties that are putting the Piedmontese capital in the spotlight for two intense weeks. The organization of the Torino 2006 Games has created, along with businesses and cultural institutions, a rich program of events, including the concerts taking place at the Medal Plaza.
After the awards ceremony every evening and during the Olympic Games, there are big musical events with a national and international character. First up was Andrea Boccelli, who performed on Saturday, Feb. 11. The public was ecstatic when the maestro Ennio Morricone performed his greatest hits on Feb. 13. Those who didn't attend the concert in person were able to enjoy it on giant screens installed in Piazza San Carlo. Expected guests for upcoming evenings are Lou Reed, Ricky Martin, Avril Lavigne and to close things on Feb. 25, Riccardo Cocciante.
The Medal Plaza, located in Piazza Castello, boasts a pre-eminence in the history of the Olympics. It is the first stage constructed in the center of an Olympic city. The scen is seductive. Its modern and imposing structure contrasts with the Royal Palace which is faces and with the antiquity of the plaza.
The spaces and places of Torino during these weeks are illuminated 24 hours a day thanks to the truly artistic works of light designed by 21 famous Italian and international artists, including: Air, Borghi, Buren, Casorati, De Maria, Ferrero, Giammello, Holzer, Horn, Kosuth, Mainolfi, Merz, Molinari, Nervo, Pannoli, Paolini Stoisa, Vercruysse, Zorio. The works confer an extraordinary vivacity and a prestigious artistic sense to the city.
From the Murazzi, nocturnal destination for partyers, one can see the Po River illuminated by neon, reiterating the beauty of the scene: an enchanting panorama with the church of the Gran Madre, and at the top, the Cappucini mountain illuminated by an electric blue light. Also illuminated are Piazza Carignano, Via Garibaldi, the city hall plaza, Piazza Carlo Emanuele II, Via Roman, Via Carlo Alberto, Mole Antonelliana (the towering symbol of Torino), Viale Primo Maggio, Piazza Mollino, Via Po, Via Lagrange, Piazza Carlo Alberto and many other areas. This spectacle of colored lights renders Torino more beautiful than ever.
Posted by Gloria Cardano at 9:04 a.m. | Talkbacks
Skiing attracts party people
American Ted Ligety, 21, won the alpine combined gold medal yesterday to pick up the disqualified Bode Miller, who appeared on his way to victory after a commanding downhill run. But Miller straddled a gate in his first slalom run, earning the disqualification.
Ligety's win represents just the fourth men's alpine gold for the U.S., while Miller has three more chances for his first in these Games: the Super G, the slalom and the giant slalom.
The notoriously laissez-faire Miller basically shrugged off his DQ, mentioning that at least he wouldn't have leave to the downhill site for Torino and the medal ceremony. Former women's medalist and ESPN analyst Picabo Street was openly critical of the rowdy Miller, saying he has to "grow up" for his benefit and his country's. She was referring partially to Miller's pre-Olympics comments about skiing drunk.
Perhaps Street missed the memo, but isn't cultivating a rowdy image the inherent domain of the alpine skier? Famed Italian Alberto Tomba was an avowed party boy, downing drinks and wooing women all throughout his career. And Miller himself has a Nike advertising campaign built around the theme of his reckless cool. Miller's style might not be all that responsible, but it certainly pays.
Posted by Tim Gutowski at 8:18 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 14, 2006
A tourist in her own town
Beautiful Torino, even more beautiful this morning. It's Sunday, Feb. 12, 2006, the Olympic caldron has been lit for two days and I have decided for once to be a tourist in my own city. I took the car to get closer to the city center, parked and towards 11 a.m. started to take a walk. Luckily there isn't a crowd now, just some tourists making the most of the morning and the beautiful sunshine that illuminates a deep blue sky. The Torinesi, the great "bugia nen" (those that hold firm and don't budge, a way of pointing to what some call the coldness or stiffness of the Piemontesi), are maybe still dozing at home ... and now I begin to look around, to admire in person the many things that can be seen on TV in every corner of the world.
Piazza Castello (renamed the Medals Plaza for the occasion) is beautiful and I spy through the glass the stage put up to host the awarding of medals and the regular concerts: grandiose! In Via Roma and in Via Garibaldi (Europe's longest pedestrian-only street) the shops are open but not crowded. It's ideal for seeking out some great deals and for checking the spring fashions. After a bit, however, I'm overtaken by the desire for a good coffee and finding myself in Piazza San Carlo (home of three great, classic Torinesi cafes), I get the unhealthy idea of entering the Caval 'd bruns (which means the bronze horse in Piemonteis). I immediately regret this foolish ambition: here are all the Torinesi! All waiting in line at the counter! Patience, I think, I'll come back another time. I leave and look around. Piazza San Carlo has become an entirely pedestrian island and has been repaved for the occasion giving it a really beautiful look. It will be the umbilical cord connecting Torino to the world; it is the fixed position of NBC (featured on the evening news and the Today show every day). There are so many foreigners in the city and all together. I've never seen so many; tons of Americans and Germans, some Asians here and there. All with maps in their hands trying to get their bearings; a job that is decidedly accessible in this most "roman" of Italian cities. I make another leap over to Piazza Solferino, which serves as the Sponsor Village. Here there is a ton of people, drawn by the mega stands. Too many people for my tastes. I decide that now is the time to go back home, satisfied by a morning unlike any other.
Posted by Elena Dellacroce at 11:29 a.m. | TalkbacksGames dish up great emotion
To celebrate 100 years of the republic in 1961, the Italia 61 exposition grounds were built in Torino. One of the most beautiful works was the Palavela (which is short for "palazzo a vela") which was recently renovated by Gae Aulenti and has become one of the ice sports venues. Last night on the occasion of the figure skating competition there were some unforgettable moments: a continual struggle and a rollercoaster of emotions in which the Russians and Chinese had brushes with perfection. The gold medal was won by the Russian pair Totmianina-Marinin while the silver went to the Chinese, whose Dan Zhang had everyone holding their breath after his terrible fall and the great performance despite his knee pain. Yes, these Olympics know how to provide great moments!
Posted by Luigi Dellacroce at 11:12 a.m. | TalkbacksNew photos
Andrea Biscaro has sent some more photos, taken today. You can see them above in the slide show.
Posted by Bobby Tanzilo at 10:39 a.m. | TalkbacksCheek's humanity ought to change Harvard's mind
Speedskater Joey Cheek won the 500-meter gold medal yesterday, giving the U.S. its second skating win of the Torino Games. Afterward, the 26-year-old said he would donate all of his $25,000 winner's check (given by the U.S. Olympic Committee) to refugees in the Darfur region.
Pretty generous, especially considering that Cheek wants to enroll in Harvard when he gets home, where that $25,000 might cover one-year's tuition. The only problem is that Harvard has already rejected Cheek's early application. The school may want to reconsider.
Viva Italia: Torino represents Italy's second Winter Games, the first coming back in 1956 in the tiny resort town of Cortina d'Amepezzo. Cortina is in the Dolomites near Austria, part of the Veneto region.
The '56 Games marked the athletic debut of the monolithic Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a nation that would provide fodder for movie scripts, paperback novels and song lyrics until the Berlin Wall fell more than 30 years later. The USSR immediately won seven gold medals and 16 overall, both tops in the Games.
East and West Germany, themselves relics of those communist times, competed as one team dubbed the "United Team of Germany." In addition to the awkward name, they won just a pair medals, a gold and a bronze. Meanwhile, the U.S. brought home seven medals in the 10-day Games.
Posted by Tim Gutowski at 8:21 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 13, 2006
White wins over Winter skeptics
Despite my condescending attitude toward the "X Games events" in the Winter Games (snowboarding, moguls, etc.), I admit to being won over by 19-year-old snowboard gold medalist Shaun White. White was the overwhelming favorite to win the gold medal in the halfpipe, but a shaky qualifying run Sunday put him under heavy pressure just to make the finals. He qualified with a better-safe-than-sorry second run, and from there he went on to claim gold rather easily in the finals.
Being interviewed by an NBC broadcaster after qualifying, White admitted that he was feeling the pressure. Along the way, the word "trippin'" was used. Had this occurred while talking to Suzy Kolber during the X Games, this would have annoyed me. But instead, White seemed like precisely what he is -- a really talented teenager having a great time performing on a worldwide stage.
As for other big American favorites this weekend, short-track speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno stumbled in the semifinal heat of the 1500 meters and failed to defend his 2002 gold in that event. And skiers Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves both failed to medal as Frenchman Antoine Deneriaz pulled off a stunning upset on the final run of the day to win the gold in the men's downhill.
And, of course, Michelle Kwan decided that an injured groin would prevent her from competing in the figure skating event later in the Games, thus robbing NBC of one of its chief dramatic storylines of the fortnight. At least they milked it while they could.
Who was that guy? : While watching the ski jumping portion of the Nordic combined on Saturday afternoon (cross-country is the other portion), I couldn't quite place the voice of the lead announcer. Then it hit me -- it was that of former Brewers TV play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian. Vasgersian, who became a hit in Milwaukee with his penchant for quoting movies lines and dropping other one-liners into his baseball calls, played it straight to the vest in his duties Saturday. I guess it's harder to use a line from "Stripes" in a ski jumping broadcast.
Posted by Tim Gutowski at 8:02 a.m. | Talkbacks
Olympics vs. Calcio
Seated in front of the TV most of the day on Sunday, serving as a soft, warm bed for my ailing son, I expected to watch some Olympic events. That was, until I stumbled upon Telemundo's broadcast of Siena vs. Roma in the Italian Serie A, just a few minutes underway. As a soccer fan without cable TV, Telemundo is my normal source for football matches and I've grown accustomed to watching obscure teams from South and Central American countries duke it out -- often at tiny stadiums -- so it was a pleasant surprise to see some Serie A action. I couldn't help thinking to myself how odd it was to have so many sporting events from Italy broadcast on free TV on one day.
However, watching some of the Games in the evening led to my catching the great snowboarding event and Shaun White's gold medal-winning performance. It's not a sport I ever pay attention to, but White's amazing skills and his modest, effusive attitude may change that.
Posted by Bobby Tanzilo at 7:55 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 12, 2006
Flame lights Torino nights
Andrea Biscaro, who lives quite close to the Olympic Village, has sent a couple of alluring photos of the flame and the exterior of the stadium, taken at 11 p.m. Saturday night. You can see them above in the slide show.
Posted by Bobby Tanzilo at 10:39 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 11, 2006
Let the games begin
Most Milwaukeeans probably felt at least a twinge of pride watching skater Chris Witty carry the flag at the head of the American team as it marched into Torino's Olympic Stadium as part of the opening ceremonies Friday night.
You can read more about Witty and hear an interview with her here.
It was fun watching the faces of the teams as they marched into the stadium and commenting on the vast array of Olympic wear, from the Australian haz-mat suits to the athletic-looking American ones and the more glamorous ones from various European countries.
Imagine the pride felt by athletes who were alone in representing their countries. And probably no small pressure as they're their countries' only medal hopes.
We could have done without Bob Costas' dull patter, however. Costas usually is well-informed and at times interesting, but not Friday, when he sounded as if he was skimming tidbits off a press release and watching Must See TV on another monitor. Perhaps he wasn't even in Torino at all.
Posted by Bobby Tanzilo at 7:42 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 10, 2006
Belmondo sets Torino ablaze!
Although Alberto Tomba was among the final torch bearers, Stefania Belmondo, a hometown girl, lit the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony to the delight of Piedmontese Italians everywhere tonight in Torino. Tomba carried the torch into the stadium.
The Olympics were officially launched by president of the Italian Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
It is estimated that 2 billion people around the world will have watched the opening ceremony Friday night.
You can see photos from the ceremony on the Web at lastampa.it/redazione/default.asp#. Click on "La cerimonia di apertura/prima parte" for the first part and "Seconda parte" for more.
Posted by Bobby Tanzilo at 4:01 p.m. | Talkbacks
In search of an Italian luge star
Back when I was growing up, the United States rarely found itself atop the medal standings in the Winter Games. But in 2002, the Americans earned 34 medals, which was good for second place overall behind Germany (36).
My personal feeling is that much of this success is due to the new-wave, Americanized sports that are now "Olympic," like freestyle skiing and snowboarding (aren't these X Games events?) At any rate, the medal chase has lost a bit of its allure. Either that or I'm getting old.
If you're not interested in where the Americans finish, it's fun to track how the home team is doing. The Italians won 13 medals at Salt Lake City (4-4-5), which was good for seventh overall. So following Team Italy won't be akin to rooting for the ultimate underdog, but it might be more fun than tallying up Team U.S.A.'s halfpipe medals.
One Italian to watch is luge star (OK, "star") Armin Zoeggeler (bear with me, there's a subplot here). Zoeggeler took the gold in 2002 to deny luge God Georg Hackl a fourth consecutive Olympic victory in the event. As it is, Germany's Hackl has won medals in five straight Olympics in the same event, itself a record. Zoeggler has home-track advantage and also won the 2005 World Championship, which apparently exists in luge.
Men's luge takes place this weekend, so tune in to see if the home star can fend off Germany's "Speeding Sausage." And if you simply must have an American point of interest, Minnesotan Tony Benshoof has a solid chance at medaling.
Posted by Tim Gutowski at 8:31 a.m. | Talkbacks
The flame is on schedule
Right on schedule, the flame passed below my office window at 2:32 p.m.
Posted by Giancarlo Libert at 8:26 a.m. | Talkbacks
Threat is political rhetoric
Although there was talk of a suspicious package on the flame's route yesterday, most of the threat came from conservative government officials warning that they fear violence from "anti-global" and "environmentalist" protestors against a high-speed rail line. The Olympics will certainly provide a perfect stage for both sides to grandstand and spread their agendas.
Posted by Bobby Tanzilo at 8:20 a.m. | Talkbacks
Today is Torino's big day
Today is the big day for Torino. This morning the Olympic flame restarted its journey, leaving from Superga -- a symbolic place for the Torino soccer team -- and traveling around the city. Yesterday, in crossing the town, the flame already passed some important places, including the Sant'Ana children's hospital, where the flame was carried for a while by recovering children organizing a small festival that brought, at least for a day, happiness to the hospital. Creating much curiosity was the fact that the olympic flame, in addition to being carried in the hands of the torch bearers, also travels in a special container, carried by a "guardian of the flame," that prevents its being snuffed out.
Posted by Luigi Dellacroce at 7:52 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 9, 2006
Bomb threat in Torino?<>We have received word that there has been a bomb scare in Torino and that the threat has been deemed false, but no other information is yet available. Stay tuned.
Posted by Bobby Tanzilo at 4:17 p.m. | Talkbacks
Belmondo 1, Tomba 0
For the inauguation of the Torino 2006 Olympics there is on one uncertainty: who will be the final torch bearer to arrive and light the Olympic flame? There are two candidates and in the bars of Piedmont there are animated discussions between fans of one and fans of the other. There is ski champ Stefania Belmondo, a Piedmontese, and the great Alberto Tomba.; Both have represented Italy well in winter sports but fans are putting not just their heads, but also their hearts, into this competition ... and I'm rooting for Stefania Belmondo!!
Posted by Luigi Dellacroce at 8:55 a.m. | Talkbacks
Olympics aren't fun for everyone
OK, I didn't take a poll. In fact, I didn't even really ask, but two friends in Torino have written to me in the past two days telling me how the Olympics are affecting them.
Stefano wrote this morning that, "I can tell you that for us residents the Olympics are creating many problems with traffic ... and economically. I think there needs to also be some benefits."
Enzo, who normally divides his time between Torino and the small town of his birth about 35 miles to the east, is in Milan for a couple days. But he's due to return tomorrow to Torino, where his grandson was just born. He's not sure if he'll be able to get there, he says.
"The Olympics have put the whole city in 'tilt.' Let's hope they pass quickly. ... My wife was desperate, she walked eight kilometers because at the hospital where my daughter gave birth she couldn't get a bus or a tram or a taxi. She says the city was invaded by people and you can't even move around well on foot."
Both, however, are appassionati (lovers) of Harleys and have Milwaukee on the mind because of it. One is from the small town of Fubine, which has two connections to Milwaukee. The first is that the great-grandson of a Fubinese woman is writing this blog entry and the second is that the internationally-respected Space Cannon lighting company -- located on the edge of Fubine -- supplied the lighting for the 2003 Elton John concert at the lakefront in celebration of Harley's 100th annniversary.
A third friend says that life for him hasn't changed much.
"These days, I'm busy with work and therefore I'm living outside of the Olympics in Torino," wrote Andrea Biscaro.
And finally, another email from Torino today put it like this: "Yes, these are exciting times in Torino; finally the world will know about our wonderful city. However, we are beginning to think that perhaps it was better before when Torino was one of the best kept secrets in Italy."
Posted by Bobby Tanzilo at 8:44 a.m. | Talkbacks
NHL strike struck at hockey's profile
Every four years, hockey is one of the biggest stories in the Winter Games. That should be the case again in Torino, but the lack of overall excitement around the men's draw may be symbolic of the sport's decreased, post-NHL strike profile.
Then again, we don't live in Quebec. In 2002, Canada defeated Team U.S.A. to take the gold medal, and our northern neighbors are again expected to earn top honors. Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic, backstopped by aging goaltender Dominik Hasek (41 years old), should also contend for medals. The Americans are seeded sixth in the 12-team tourney and are coached by Carolina's Peter Laviolette. The coach also played in the '88 and '94 Games.
Some notable American names will take the ice: 87-year-old Chris Chelios, Keith Tkachuk, Mike Modano and Bill Guerin, to name a few. But longtime U.S.A. goalie Mike Richter has retired, leaving the threesome of Robert Esche, John Grahame and Rick DiPietro behind. Admittedly I'm no hockey geek, but these guys don't evoke images of Jim Craig with an American flag draped around his shoulders back in 1980. Laviolette hasn't announced who will start the Feb. 15 opener against Latvia.
Despite the lower profile of the sport in States, NBC has elected to show every game of the men's tournament live, though many will appear on affiliate channels. Most of the games will take place in the morning or early afternoon, though a quick scan of the schedule predictably shows that the U.S. team got the best time slots. You can check out the U.S. opener next Wednesday against the Latvians starting at 2 p.m. on the USA Network.
Posted by Tim Gutowski at 8:06 a.m. | Talkbacks
Milwaukee restaurants catch Torino fever
Shaker's in Walker's Point and the Bartolotta Ristorantes in downtown Wauwatosa and on Downer Avenue are bringing the cuisine of Piedmont to Milwaukee during the Olympic Games. Normally, one is hard-pressed to find any Piedmontese foods in Milwaukee eateries.
Shaker's, 422 S. 2nd St., will do a four-course, fixed price Piedmontese dinner on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. with bagna caoda, gnocchi, zabaglione and a fine Piedmontese wine -- like moscato, barbera and nebbiolo -- with each course. Cost is $65 per person before Feb. 15 and $75 after. Call 272-4222 for information and reservations.
Meanwhile, Bartolotta's -- which usually dishes up polenta and vitello tonnato -- will have a special Piedmontese menu alongside its regular menu from Feb. 10 through 20. These dishes will be accented with wines from Barolo, Italy's Gian Luca Viberti, scion to a respected winery, who has been creating his own bold, distinctive wines. Viberti visited Bartolotta's for the third time late last year. For more information, call 771-7910 (Tosa) or 962-7910 (Downer).
Posted by Bobby Tanzilo at 7:55 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 8, 2006
Faster Torino: the new subway
On the occasion of the Olympics the new Torino metropolitan subway was inaugurated on Saturday, Feb. 4. It is the most modern metro in Italy and uses a modern "Val" system of conductor-less, two-car trains that pass every two minutes. The first line connects Collegno with Porta Susa station and is 7.5 kilomters long and has 11 stops. With the next year, it will be lengthed as far as Porta Nuova station and by 2009 it will reach Lingotto, to the south. The architecture of the stations is open and bright which will help keep the stations safe and secure.
Posted by Luigi Dellacroce at 11:06 p.m. | Talkbacks10,001 torch bearers
I ennjoy watching the adventures of the Olypmics flame. Two days ago from the Valle Susa, west of Torino, the flame went to the area in France around Albertville, where the winter Olympics were held in 1986. After the flame left again for Italy and entered the Valle di Aosta, north of Torino, but instead of passing in the 11.6-kilometer tunnel under Monte Bianco (4,810 meters high) it passed over the slopes of the mountain, going as high as 3,600 meters! The Alpine guides of the Valle d'Aosta had decided to carry the torch also to the peak of Monte Bianco but a strong wind prevented them from getting all the way up.
Tomorrow, the trip continues ... there are only 48 more hours until Feb. 10, when the games officially open. Did you know by the time the torch reaches Torino that there will have been 10,001 tedofori (or torch bearers) in this edition of the "torch carrier games"?
Posted by Luigi Dellacroce at 8:42 a.m. | Talkbacks
Winter sports both obscure and fascinating
Ah, the Winter Games. The winter version of the Olympics were the coolest thing on earth when I was a kid. Snow, athletes, television, Jim McKay ... it lacked only McDonald's to make it a true kid's paradise. And, of course, as a major American sponsor, McD's is now intrinsically involved (it probably was then, too, but not as noticeably).
The winter sports themselves tend to be obscure but fascinating. Bobsled is the avatar -- speed, ice, cool helmets, a sled and the potential for serious injury. Even Herschel Walker showed up once.
There are 15 "disciplines" featured in the Torino games: Alpine Skiing, Biathlon, Bobsled, Cross Country Skiing, Curling, Figure Skating, Freestyle Skiing, Ice Hockey, Long Track Speedskating, Luge, Short Track Speedskating, Nordic Combined, Skeleton, Snowboarding, and Ski Jumping.
Alpine Skiing -- Downhill, Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G -- evokes the most personal memories. I was 11 (do the math) when American Bill Johnson recklessly raced to gold in the 1984 downhill in Sarajevo. I'll always remember him coming out of a jump in that oft-replayed sequence of his final run, arms and poles helicoptering to retain his balance, only to land gracefully and fly down the hill to capture the gold. Now that was cool.
The U.S. men are well-represented in the alpine events, which begin with the downhill on Sunday. Bode Miller, the 2005 World Cup champ and a returning medalist (silvers in the giant slalom and alpine combined in 2002), and Daron Rahlves are both expected to challenge for some hardware -- and be worshipped as heroes among impressionable 11-year olds across the nation.
Posted by Tim Gutowski at 8:21 a.m. | Talkbacks
Say it with me, Sauze d'Oulx
We can't help but cringe every time we turn on the TV and hear newscasters local and national butchering the names of Italian cities. So, we decided to offer our dear readers a quick guide to pronouncing the names of some of the cities and towns hosting the Olympics.
Bardonecchia -- Remember that "ch" before an i or e is always a hard sound (like in gnocchi). So, bahr-doh-NECK-ee-yah.
Cesana -- There are two towns that start with Chay-SAH-nah: Cesana San Sicario and Cesana Pariol and they're hosting biathlon and bobsled events.
Pinerolo -- Pee-nay-ROH-lo is at the opening of the Val (which means valley) Pellice. The stress is on the first syllable: PAY-lee-chay.
Pragelato -- Say Prah-gell-AH-toh.
Sauze d'Oulx -- This one has two different pronunciations in the region. The Italian version is SOW-zay doulz and the version in the Piemonteis language is SOOZ doulz.
Sestriere -- Remember that Italians pronounce words basically as they're spelled, so there's no silent e at the end of Sess-tree-AIR-ay.
Torino/Turin -- There's been a lot of debate about whether to use the Italian Torino or the Anglicized Turin (TOO-rin or Too-RIN), which is also the way the name of the city is spelled in Piemonteis, although it's pronounced with a French u sound and a hint of a g at the end. Tyu-RING. We're going with Torino so that when the Olympics are in Los Angeles, the Italians won't call them the Gli Angeli Olympics.
If you want to wow the locals, bid them good morning by saying bon di (boon dee), which is the proper greeting in Piemonteis.
Posted by Bobby Tanzilo at 7:40 a.m. | Talkbacks
Milwaukee got an advance taste of Olympic fever
Anyone who visited the Piemonte regional exhibit at last summer's Festa Italiana got a preview of the Torino 2006 Olympics. There were illustrated maps of the Olympic sites and venues, colored flags for the kids with the cartoon characters Neve and Gliz as well as all kinds of maps, magazines, brochures and more highlighting not only Torino and the valleys to the west where many of the games will be held, but also other areas in the region of Piedmont of interest to visitors.
Posted by Bobby Tanzilo at 7:35 a.m. | Talkbacks
Feb. 7, 2006
Firing up the Pinerolo crowd
On Friday, Feb. 3, the Olympic flame passed through Pinerolo, home of Olympic curling. It's not that the idea of seeing the Olympic torch made me crazy but at the local bar they said to me, "it will pass our intersection at 6:31 and then, almost out of curiosity, at 6:20 I went downstairs from my office. There was a sea of people of all ages along Via Saluzzo!! Police cars passed, then the sponsors and finally, at 6:32, the Olympic torch carried by a group of young athletes at a slow trot.
I wouldn't ever have believed it. Everyone applauded and felt as if they were part of a happy and positive event and I heard later that there were more than 5,000 people along the street. More than in the best years of the Carnevale.
Posted by Luigi Dellacroce at 12:40 p.m. | Talkbacks
OnMilwaukee touts Torino
OnMilwaukee.com ran two articles about the highlights of Torino recently:
Posted by Bobby Tanzilo at 10:02 a.m. | Talkbacks
Andrea Biscaro is a Torino-based writer, historian and professional researcher. His new book is due to be published shortly. E-mail him at email@example.com.
Gloria Cardano writes for Torino Magazine and lives in Torino. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Luigi Dellacroce lives in Pinerolo, Italy and is president of the Union of Piedmontese in the World. E-mail him at email@example.com.
Tim Gutowski is a passionate fan of Wisconsin sports, even if he lives in Chicago. He writes a weekly sports column for OnMilwaukee.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Giancarlo Libert is an historian who lives in Torino. His latest book is "Astigiani nella Pampa," about emigrants who left the Piedmontese province of Asti to settle in Argentina. E-mail him at E-mail him at email@example.com.