March 10, 2006 Features & Images » Feature Story

Scenes from the Games 

From colliding buses, empty seats, the log man, and O Solo Mio, Pique editor Bob Barnett observes lessons learned for Whistler from the 2006 Winter Olympics.

click to flip through (4) Italian fans cheer at the women's downhill in San Sicario.
  • Italian fans cheer at the women's downhill in San Sicario.

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Among the mountain venues, Sestriere also worked. It worked because there is a central gathering point, a piazza lined with shops and bars and restaurants, within walking distance of the finish line for all the alpine technical events. People gathered in the piazza to watch events on the giant TV screen, to have a drink or just to hangout and watch the Herman Maier fan club try to outdo the Giorgio Rocca fan club with a cacophony of bells, horns and funny little hats.

Is there is a lesson for Whistler in this? A suggestion would be getting spectators back to the village quickly and efficiently after an event is key. But the decision to have the medals ceremony for the Whistler events in Whistler is also crucial.

What’s that smell?

On a crisp mountain morning, with the rising sun turning the peaks of the Milky Way gold and the trees laden with new snow, there was an air of anticipation – accentuated by sports fans from across Europe scurrying to venues to cheer on their athletes.

Dressed in their nations’ colours, some already in good voice thanks to various throat lubricants, it is a hopeful scene that was replayed each morning of the Olympics.

But there’s another scent that also hung heavy in the mountain air each morning, the smell of diesel from the battalion of buses that were the supply line for the Torino Games. The diesel exhaust was to Olympic organizers what napalm was to Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now, the smell of victory.

Or if not victory, at least not defeat.

Many predicted transportation, particularly to and from the nine mountain venues, would be the Achilles’ heel (to borrow a Sea to Sky Highway description) of the Torino Olympics. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t a disaster either.

There were a couple of buses that collided on the road up to Sauze d’Oulx during a snowstorm. And during the first week there were a few busloads of people traveling from Torino to the mountains who missed events because drivers got lost. But for the most part the bus system worked.

A total of 1,100 buses were hired for the Olympics, along with 250 vans. It’s difficult to find any two buses painted in the same colours, so it appears they came from all over Italy, and perhaps all over Europe.

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