Turin nearly ready to open
PRAGELATO, Italy – Welcome world. Almost.
Dario Dinkal, longtime assistant World Cup cross-country coach to Italy’s Alessandro Vanoy, shrugged his shoulders Tuesday and noted, "Inside the fence is sport, and we are ready; but outside, so many companies, so much…" and Dinkal, now Italy’s nordic combined coach for cross-country in addition to serving as Vanoy’s key lieutenant in the Olympic cross-country venue, looked at the study in sleepwalking before him. In theory, craftsmen and assorted other workers were putting together the final stages of the cross-country venue in this community on the valley floor below Sestriere, the mountain resort community started by the late Gianni Agnelli so he could have a place to mountain-test and winter-test his Fiat car models.
In theory, underlined. The gap between theory and reality – and the venue being ready for competitions Saturday – seemed beyond the grasp of the workers. Two guys snoozed on snowmobiles. Others stood around, as if waiting for someone to give them orders on where to do what.
Yeah, Italy being Italy. Maddeningly delightful.
Sestriere is a bustling resort, which will serve as the site for the Olympic alpine races (and the renamed U.S. Ski Team House – or perhaps USA House, the name wasn’t finalized at press time – is located in the Irish Igloo saloon) once Olympic Winter Games XX get underway Friday night with Opening Ceremonies.
Pragelato, a footnote to the hub-bub in Sestriere, is a traffic jam waiting to happen. Narrow mountain roads are more cluttered than ever this week, as if someone just realized the successor to Salt Lake’s splendiferous OWG XIX four years ago is almost here. So many supplies for so many teams. And so little time. Oh boy.
Dinkal shook hands with a couple of American friends now working for NBC – which will broadcast some 418 hours of Olympic coverage on the network plus MSNBC, CNBC and USA Network, starting Friday night.
"Out the fence," Dinkal, smiling as he shook is head, "…oh, that is crazy. So many companies, so much people, so much to do…
"But, inside the fence, that is sport…and we in sport know what we have to do."
Despite the seeming chaos and gotta-catch-up motif, the mountain venues – alpine in Sestriere, all nordic (cross-country, jumping, Nordic combined) in Pragelato, freestyle in Sauze D’Oulx (pronounced sawz DOOCE) and snowboarding in Bardonecchia – are just about ready.
And even if they aren’t, here come the Games. And by late-night on the 26th, the Games will be over and the focus will swing to Vancouver, host of OWG XXI in 2010.
These days are chaotic, filled with so many things. Athletes arriving from various training camps (Nordic combined from Val di Fiemme, on the opposite side of northern Italy, side of Innsbruck, Austria) or race sites (cross-country skiers from Switzerland, alpine men from France and women from Germany, freestylers from the Czech Republic).
Uniforming, media conferences in Torino as the U.S. teams come through, and then a zip-trip, quickly to the mountains for settling-in. The first snow events are on the first day of competitions, Saturday. Women’s moguls, Nordic combined (15K) and qualifying for the normal hill ski jumping.
At Tuesday’s press conference for the alpine men, just about all questions went to Bode Miller; it was as if downhill star Daron Rahlves and Park City’s slalom star ascendant Ted Ligety were parked under Harry Potter’s cloak of invisiblity.
Moderator Tom Kelly kept pushing questions to all U.S. alpiners, but when a journalist queried anyone, it went to Miller.
Just for the record, Ligety’s smokin’ fastest-time slalom run last Friday in Chamonix, France, during the super combined, boosting him from 33rd to 10th, gives him another boost of confidence as his first Olympics approach. So far, the young talent has been bulletproof when it came to pressure this season.
But the Olympics are a different galaxy from the World Cup. Ligety knows it.
What’s Italian for "goldfish bowl?"
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