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posted July 20, 2005 10:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Ad Sales for Winter Olympics Are Cold for NBC

A general slowdown in ad sales combined with high price tags have resulted in slow-going for NBC sales execs trying to land advertisers for next year's Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, the online MediaDailyNews reported Tuesday. Larry Novenstern of the ad agency Deutsch Inc. pointed out that NBC is also attempting to package its cable coverage of the Olympics with its broadcast coverage, thereby placing an even higher price on the ad inventory. "It's not like in the old days when there was just [the NBC broadcast network] to buy," Novenstern remarked. According to the report, NBC has sold only 75 percent of its goal of $800 million. The network declined to comment on the report, saying only that sales for the Olympics are on pace.

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posted September 20, 2005 11:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for HollywoodProducer   Click Here to Email HollywoodProducer     Edit/Delete Message
Turin 2006 Torch to Be Lit in Olympia

The Olympic torch for the 2006 Winter Games in Turin will be lit Nov. 27 at the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia.

The torch relay will begin the same day and cover most of Greece in 10 days. After traveling 1,234 miles, the torch will be handed to Italian organizers Dec. 7 in Athens' Panathinaiko stadium for a flight to Rome.

Stefano Baldini, the Italian who won the marathon at last year's Athens Games, will start the Italian leg of the torch relay in Rome on Dec. 8.

The Italian relay will last 64 days and cover more than 6,835 miles, passing through every region and province in Italy by the time it arrives in Turin for the Feb. 10-26 games.

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posted November 01, 2005 01:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Italy readying security for Turin Olympics
The countdown begins: Feb. 10 opening ceremony approaching

The Associated Press

ROME - Italian security forces won high marks for the protection of more than 100 world leaders and the 2 million pilgrims who came to Rome after the death of Pope John Paul II.

Authorities placed thousands of police on the streets, sharpshooters on rooftops and a surveillance plane in the air. Similar measures most likely will be used for the next major test -the Turin Olympics in February, when 2,500 athletes, 5,000 officials and 1 million spectators are expected.

"We have invested an enormous sum" in security, Mario Pescante, the government supervisor for the games, told The Associated Press.

He wouldn't say exactly how much, but disclosed that an additional appropriation of more than $12 million recently was earmarked for mainly extra Olympic security.

Italy raised its security alert after the July 7 suicide bombings in London's transit system, stepping up measures at airports, government buildings, embassies and monuments.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi's government has said it is taking seriously purported Internet threats by Islamic militants who say Italy and Britain could be attacked because it has troops in Iraq. Officials stress, however, that no specific threat was made regarding the Turin Olympics.

Still the government is taking no chances. Last month, it expelled a Moroccan-born Muslim preacher from Turin, saying he represented a danger to public security.

The government toughened its anti-terrorist laws after the London bombings. A recent intelligence report said radical Muslims, mainly from Morocco and Tunisia living in Turin's Piedmont region and several others in northern Italy, posed a risk to Western interests.

Security preparations for the Athens Games last year came under constant pressure from the United States, Israel and other nations because of chronic construction delays and worries that Greek forces were not properly trained to deal with heightened threats following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Greek officials allowed NATO surveillance aircraft and foreign warships to bolster the security network, which cost a record $1.4 billion. Security at the smaller Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City in 2002 cost about $310 million, a bill that increased after Sept. 11.

With the 100-day countdown to the Feb. 10 opening ceremony approaching, U.S. Ambassador Ronald Spogli visited Turin this week and met with Olympic officials.

The U.S. government set up a security support office in Turin this year, according to a report drawn up for Congress. Officials there declined to talk to the AP.

But David Bustamante, spokesman at the U.S. Consulate in Milan, which is helping to organize the American presence in Turin, said the U.S. government has "full confidence in the ability of the government of Italy to run every aspect" of the Olympics.

Italian police officials say they have been working closely with embassies and representatives of six or seven countries, sharing intelligence information and other data. A security seminar in Rome last month drew representatives from major international sports events, including the Salt Lake City and Athens Olympics and soccer's World Cup in Germany next year.

Management of security is in the hands of the Interior Ministry and the officials who arranged security following the death of Pope John Paul II on April 2. They are assembling a force from the national police, the paramilitary Carabinieri, the customs and tax police and forest rangers.

Officials declined to give any numbers, but the security plan obtained by the AP for the pope's funeral and installation of his successor indicates how Italian authorities handle such events.

With more than 100 monarchs, heads of state and heads of government attending the funeral Mass on April 8, the government put together a force of about 10,000 police, enhanced by elite sharpshooter and bomb disposal units.

An AWACS surveillance jet patrolled the skies above Rome, deployed by NATO at the request of Italian authorities while air space within a five-mile radius of Rome was closed during the funeral.

The plan was aimed at protecting not only the VIPs but the pilgrims as well as such sensitive targets as religious and diplomatic sites.

The Interior Ministry also has expressed concern about the possibility of violence from homegrown anarchists and anti-globalization protesters. Violent demonstrations at a G-8 summit in Genoa in 2001 led to the death of a protester, shot by a Carabinieri after a demonstrator hurled a fire extinguisher at his jeep.

An anti-terrorism drill in Rome this past week was delayed because of a demonstration by anti-globalization protesters, who said removing Italian troops from Iraq would end the risk of attack.

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posted November 02, 2005 02:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jpgordo   Click Here to Email jpgordo     Edit/Delete Message
A Portrait of Turin

This Northern Italian capital of commerce and cafés is finally going to have its moment in the sun—er, snow—this February when it hosts the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. It's about time!

By Reid Bramblett
Special to
Updated: 2:42 p.m. ET Nov. 1, 2005

Turin is one of the prettiest, liveliest, and most intriguing cities in Northern Italy. As the hometown of car manufacturer Fiat, however, Turin is often mislabeled an "Italian Detroit," and neighboring Milan and Genoa get more press (and tourists). This is entirely unfair. I'd go so far as to call Turin the most genteel city in Italy; its gracious urban fabric is a mix of broad Parisian boulevards, leafy London-style residential squares, and elegant coffeehouses that rival those of Vienna.

Come February, the world's attention will be focused less on the host city than on the Olympic athletes setting new records in Turin's stadiums and on the nearby slopes of the Val di Susa and Sestriere—and an upcoming article will be devoted to tips on getting tickets and finding lodging during the Games. But first, let's take a peek at Turin itself, an underrated city of baroque palazzi, frescoed cafés, and brilliant museums.

The Most Genteel City in Italy

"Torino is the city with the most beautiful natural location," Le Corbusier once said. As a devotee of straight lines, the architect must have loved Turin's stately grid street plan, a vestige of its ancient Roman roots. This grid, lined by arcaded palaces, fits into a languid curve of the mighty Po River, and the city is hemmed in by green hills and framed against a backdrop of glacier-capped Alps.

Each evening during the citywide passeggiata, Torinese stroll under the city's arcades from café to café, trading gossip as they sip bicerin (a delicious blend of espresso, hot cocoa, and whipped cream) at bar counters crowded with a dizzying array of elaborate canapés and creamy gianduotti (hazelnut-infused chocolates) free for the nibbling. As the evening wears on, people switch to aperitivi—the original aperatif, vermouth, was developed in Turin in the late 1700s and was later made famous by a local outfit called Martini e Rossi.

Turin is a distinctly cosmopolitan city. The windows of real estate agents are as likely to be hawking properties in Provence as in Piemonte, and there is a striking number of bookshops and Asian and African art galleries. The closest you can get to "ethnic cuisine" in most Italian cities are McDonald's and a few low-key Chinese restaurants marked by red paper lanterns, but in downtown Turin, you'll find everything from Japanese, Brazilian, and Mongolian to Jordanian, Kurdish, and Siberian restaurants. (Actually, I tried the sibir DIY stir-fry in the Siberian joint—Sibiriaki, at Via Belezia 8g—and it was quite good).

Not that the local cooking isn't stupendous: spiced tomino cheese, agnolotti (meat-filled pasta pillows often served in a ragu of roasted meat), tajarin egg noodles topped with porcini or shavings of white truffles from Alba, and bagna cauda (raw veggies to dip in a "hot bath" of olive oil, garlic, and anchovies). Those air-puffed grissini (bread sticks) that you now find in breadbaskets across Italy were invented in Turin to aid the delicate digestion of Prince Vittorio Amadeo II.

Plus, Turin is the capital of the Piemonte region, whose vineyards produce some of Italy's heartiest and greatest red wines, including Barolo, Barbera, and Barbaresco. In fact, this year, along with the usual "Official Olympic" soft drinks, airlines, and clothing outfitters, a series of Olympic-label wines is already on sale. What's more, you can toast your country's victories with spumante, the famous sparkling white wine from nearby Asti.

Turin's creative patrimony isn't limited to the standard Italian mix of Roman remains, medieval palaces, Renaissance paintings, and baroque churches. Sure, Turin has plenty of those, but its top attractions are a more eclectic group, including one of the world's top Egyptian museums, a fascinating cinema museum housed in perhaps the oddest building in Italy, and one of the holiest relics in the Christian faith.

Ramses II, Jesus, and Federico Fellini

If you thought London's British Museum was the place to go for the single greatest collection of Egyptian antiquities outside of Cairo, you thought wrong. The Savoy family's penchant for Egyptiana dates back to 1630, and the royal collection formed the basis of Turin's Museo Egizio, the repository for a staggering 30,000 artifacts dating back 6,000 years and covering some 4,500 years of Egyptian history. Among the treasures are a granite statue of Ramses II, the reconstructed Temple of Ellesija, and a library of papyri worthy of Alexandria, including the Book of the Dead, the Papiro delle Miniere (the world's oldest map), and the Papiro dei Re (the only known ancient document to list all the pharaohs in order).

Upstairs in the same palazzo is the Galleria Sabauda, a museum of Old Masters that showcases Turin's cosmopolitan tastes. In addition to the expected Italian canvases and altarpieces by the likes of Duccio, Fra Angelico and Bronzino, the gallery contains Italy's largest collection of northern European works, including masterpieces by Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Rubens, and Rembrandt.

If modern art is your thing, check out the marvelous GAM, or Galleria d'Arte Moderna, a treasure trove of 15,000 works from the late 18th through the 20th centuries, including such names as Modigliani, Chagall, Picasso, Warhol, Paul Klee, and Giorgio de Chirico.

Just off the north end of the main Piazza Castello, home to the Royal Palace (see below), sits the unimposing Renaissance façade of Turin's Cathedral. Inside is the Cappella della Santa Sindone, a fanciful baroque domed chapel designed by Guarino Guarini to house the revered Shroud of Turin (—possibly the only holy relic with an official Web site). The faithful believe Christ's body was wrapped in this ancient linen after He was taken down off the Cross. The shroud does have a weird, almost X-ray-like image of a man on it, with stains that correspond to Christ's wounds. Since the Middle Ages, the relic has miraculously survived a series of robbers, perilous journeys, and fires—most recently in 1997. The subject of much debate and speculation (and, one might imagine, an upcoming Dan Brown novel), the shroud has an entire museum devoted to its lore and mystery, nine blocks down Via San Domenico from the Cathedral. The relic itself is kept out of sight under firm lock and key and guard. It appears in public only sporadically; its next official showing is scheduled for 2025, but it has a habit of popping up more frequently.

There's no way to adequately describe the Mole Antonelliana using mere words. Perhaps that's why Italy put it on the back of its 2 eurocent pieces. This way, Italians can just show it to people without having to explain what it looks like: a pile of Neoclassical temples (with Gothic elements) stacked atop one another, topped by a vast, four-sided curving pyramid, another double-stack of temples, and a rounded spire that reaches an improbable 550 feet. The overall effect is, surprisingly, not ugly, though a bit hard to get used to. It briefly reigned as the tallest building in Europe—it's still the continent's tallest brickwork structure—and was built in the 1860s to be—of all things—a synagogue.

As if that wasn't weird enough, in 2000 the thing was turned into the National Museum of Cinema, a truly engaging showcase of the history of film around the world. Spread across five levels, the museum is made up of interactive displays on the science, art, and industry of moviemaking, a great collection of silver screen artifacts (from original scripts to Lawrence of Arabia's robe to Fellini's scarf and hat), and a phantasmagoria of flickering scenes played out on the walls of the vast, soaring interior as ten movies are screened simultaneously side-by-side (earphones and easy chairs are available). Make sure you climb into one the glass elevators suspended in the middle of the atrium for a vertiginous ride to the spire's observation deck and a view that, on clear days, reaches as far as France and Switzerland.

A Warning

Anything stated here about Turin is subject to change. As I write this, at the beginning of November 2005, much of the city is still preparing for the Olympics. Half the buildings in the historic center are swaddled in scaffolding for a quick scrubbing of their marble facades before the limelight hits. Whole piazze and streets are torn up as workers hurriedly install underground parking lots, finish a brand-new subway system, and make ready to move the bulk of high-speed rail service from one train station to another.

Some of the city's major attractions are preparing for the onslaught of visitors and attention, as well. The Palazzo Madama is finally slated to reopen after years of restoration have kept its interiors—and its noted gallery of medieval and Renaissance art—closed to visitors. This layer cake of architecture mixes the skeleton of a Roman gate with the body of a medieval castle, the whole of it slapped with a baroque façade by Filippo Juvarra, including a staircase down which Michael Caine careened in a Mini Cooper in the original The Italian Job.

Also reopening (we hope) will be the various wings of the Palazzo Reale, which sprawls across the north side of Piazza Castello. Backed by gardens laid out by Le Nôtre of Versailles fame, this was the Savoy royal residence from the 17th to the 19th centuries. In addition to the usual rooms of sumptuous furnishings, pompous oil paintings, precious objets d'art, and gilded frippery, the Palazzo Reale complex houses an impressive Armeria Reale (Royal Armory) of arms and armor set in gorgeous baroque ballrooms. The Biblioteca Reale (Royal Library) is only accessible during special exhibitions, but I think we can trust them to open it for such a major event as the Olympics—or, at the very least, to trot out the library's most treasured possession: Leonardo da Vinci's famous self-portrait, sketched in red ink on a freckled sheet of paper—a sad-eyed old man with wispy white hair and a long flowing beard.

Turin During the Games

Beyond the bevy of sights and cafes, Turin will pull out all the stops during the February Games. Museums and monuments will have special extended open hours, the contemporary art gallery in the Castello di Rivoli will host a triennale showcasing young talents, and the annual Luci d'Artista—in which prominent contemporary artists from around the world are invited to create outdoor sculptures using Christmas lights—will remain up through the end of February. There are even rumors that the Shroud of Turin will put in a special appearance, as it did for the Papal Jubilee celebrations of 2000.

Few of the details on the whole cavalcade of special events and spectacles are as yet hammered out. As February approaches and plans become firm, you can get updates and schedules from the city, tourism, and events offices.

One thing is certain: The heart of the city will change entirely during the Games. For this, the first "urban" winter Olympics, the organizers are taking a page from the Salt Lake City playbook and, instead of handing out medals on the spot to athletes still breathing hard and dripping sweat from their performances, each day's medals ceremony will be in the evening, back in Turin itself. As a backdrop for the medals stage, they'll use the elegant series of arcaded palazzi that line Piazza Castello, turning Turin's central square into a showcase to introduce the world to this most genteel of Italian cities.

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posted November 29, 2005 01:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Olympic Stadium Inaugurated in Turin By ANDREW DAMPF, AP Sports Writer
Tue Nov 29, 1:43 PM ET

The renovated stadium that will host opening and closing ceremonies for the Turin Winter Olympics was inaugurated Tuesday.

The fascist-era Stadio Comunale — originally called Stadio Mussolini — has been renamed Stadio Olimpico for the Feb. 10-26 games.

The facility looks completely new, with a roof hanging over the seating area around its entire circumference, a new commercial area and underground parking.

"It's a matter of pride to know that this will be Italy's stage when 2 billion people watch the opening ceremony," organizing committee chief Valentino Castellani said before a gathering of several hundred people.

The $35.4 million renovation began in March 2004. Construction is nearly complete, although workers still were hammering away during the inauguration.

The stadium was built on Benito Mussolini's orders in 1932-33.

Including 8,000 temporary seats, it will have a capacity of 35,000 for the Olympic ceremonies. A massive stage has been erected on one end and a raised wooden surface covers most of the field.

Beginning next season, the stadium will be used by the Torino soccer club. Turin's other team, Juventus, may also use the facility for two years when renovation on Stadio Delle Alpi begins after this season.

Torino and Juventus representatives joined Olympic officials at the presentation.

"They did a very beautiful job," Juventus coach Fabio Capello said. "We hope we can play here too."

Juventus won 20 Italian league titles and Torino won one at the stadium before it was abandoned before the 1990 World Cup, for which Stadio Delle Alpi was built.

Turin mayor Sergio Chiamparino said he would like the stadium to be called Grande Torino after the Olympics in honor of the Torino team wiped out in a plane crash in 1949. The club had won the league title four consecutive times.

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posted December 01, 2005 11:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Ad Sales Cold for Winter Olympics

Reports that NBC is way behind in advertising sales for the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy may be the source of new headaches for besieged network executives. The online reported today (Thursday) that NBC still has $150-200 million of spots that have yet to be sold, with the Olympics only two months away. Moreover, the trade publication observed, the Olympics could represent a worrisome problem for other broadcast and cable outlets, as advertisers shift spot buys from them to NBC. Lyle Schwartz, an executive with media planners Mediaedge: cia, told, "Since the Olympics is more expensive than other programming, it's going to chew up more of the available money." Moreover, he noted, "The other broadcast networks are not going to put on their best programming against the Olympics," resulting in lower average ratings for all of them.

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posted December 20, 2005 11:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Winter Olympics Sales Heat Up

Although earlier reports had indicated that NBC was experiencing slow ad sales for the 2006 Winter Olympics, the network said over the weekend that it had already sold $800 million worth of spots, representing 90 percent of its total "avails." The figure for the Torino event already has surpassed the $740 million total earned by the network for the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. The current total was no doubt swollen by the network's decision to expand coverage. Speaking with reporters, Peter Lazarus, senior VP sales and marketing at NBC Olympics, said, "In the last month or so, we've been able to move the needle in terms of Olympic sales to create a pretty healthy Olympic marketplace." He acknowledged however that "many advertisers are coming into the marketplace later than in previous years," including movie studios, pharmaceutical companies and financial institutions.

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posted December 28, 2005 01:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for HollywoodProducer   Click Here to Email HollywoodProducer     Edit/Delete Message
Asada, with two triple axels, not going to Olympics

By SALVATORE ZANCA, Associated Press Writer

Mao Asada's Olympics are not coming up in February. They are four years away.

Hardly seems fair for the most accomplished figure skater of this season. At 15, however, the Japanese dynamo simply isn't old enough to qualify for the Turin Games.

So on Feb. 23, when the medals are handed out, the best female jumper in the history of the sport probably will be watching from her home in Nagoya, Japan. Or perhaps from the stands at the arena as a guest while women she beat throughout the season wear the medals.

"I will be happy if I can take part in the Turin Games, but I will be satisfied if I can participate in the Vancouver Olympics in 2010," Asada said.

Despite her triple axels -- a history-making two in the same program at last week's Japanese national championships -- Asada is too young, according to International Skating Union rules. Those rules aren't likely to be changed in the next few weeks to allow her to compete in Turin -- no matter how much excitement she might bring to a sport that could use some buzz.

Only a half-dozen women have done one triple axel in significant competitions; Asada has been doing them since she was 12. She landed one at the junior Grand Prix finals in December 2004 at Helsinki, Finland, becoming the first junior girl to do one in an international event.


Then she did one at the senior Grand Prix finals two weeks ago in beating world champion Irina Slutskaya for the biggest victory of her fledgling career.

"Why can't she participate in the Olympics?" Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi asked reporters at a news conference following her Grand Prix final win. "Showing off such a splendid performance, I think that participation of an excellent player would make the Olympics all the more an exciting one."

Added John Nicks, who watched her beat his student, two-time world silver medalist Sasha Cohen, last month in Paris: "Right now she is the finest jumper in the world in the ladies division."

Anyone who watched 15-year-old Tara Lipinski win gold in 1998 might wonder why there's such a fuss about Asada's age.

Following the advice of doctors, the ISU in 1996 raised its age limit. While skaters can participate in most senior international competitions at 14, they must be 15 by the previous July 1 to be eligible for the Olympics and the world championships.

Lipinski, like Sonja Henie decades earlier, had turned 15 by the July 1 preceding the Olympics. Asada didn't turn 15 until Sept. 25, missing the cutoff by 87 days.

The International Olympic Committee respects the rules of the participating federations and will not make individual exceptions.

So Asada must wait for 2010.

AP - Dec 14, 4:59 pm EST
More Photos

Asada seems almost naive about the fuss over her not competing in Turin. Earlier in the season, she said she would respect the ISU rules. The Japanese federation also said it would not seek a change of a rule the federation actually voted for.

When asked what she will be doing while others go for the gold, Asada simply said: "Training."

"That's life and you can't change anything, you know," Slutskaya said. "We can't decide. If this is the rules, we can't do something. She's pretty young. I think the next Olympics will be for her."

But an ominous warning was sounded by Carol Heiss Jenkins, the first woman to do a double axel and winner of the 1960 gold medal.

"Asada is now just 15. She has to grow. Let's see. It is that 17-18 year age that is difficult. Their bodies change. They become a woman. They become much more emotional," Heiss Jenkins said in Tokyo.

Heiss Jenkins has been coaching Miki Ando, who did the first quadruple jump in competition for a female just before turning 15 in December 2002. Ando has not done one in competition for two years and recently turned 18.

Asada won everything in juniors since she became eligible at age 13, sweeping through an undefeated season last year and taking the junior world title in her first chance.

She is coached by Machiko Yamada, who also trained Midori Ito, Japan's most accomplished skater and a silver medalist at the 1992 Olympics. Ito was the first woman to do a triple axel in competition in 1989. Yamada also worked with Yukari Nakano, meaning Yamada has coached three of the six women who have done triple axels in competition.

The other three are Americans Tonya Harding and Kimmie Meissner, and Russian Ludmila Nelidina.

In Asada's free program at the Japanese national championships on Dec. 25, she made figure skating history. She opened with a triple axel, then followed it with a triple axel in combination with a double toe loop.

That didn't help her win the title. Fumie Suguri won, with Asada second and 2004 world champion Shizuka Arakawa third.

Still Asada, didn't express any disappointment.

"I'm very happy to have done two triple axels. I wasn't thinking about the championship, but was just focusing on the two triple axels," Asada said.

Her next goal is four turns.

"I also want to do a quadruple jump," she said.

She will probably get that chance when she defends her title at the junior world championships in March. A week later, the senior worlds will be held in Calgary. But, like the Olympics, Asada must be on the sidelines.

At least she doesn't have to wait more than four years to get to worlds. She will be eligible for them in 2007 -- in Tokyo.

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posted January 10, 2006 12:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Alitalia pilots to strike on eve of Olympics
Flight attendants will join in, creating potential havoc for arriving fans

The Associated Press
Updated: 2:55 p.m. ET Jan. 10, 2006

ROME - Alitalia pilots and flight attendants plan to strike on the eve and the first day of next month’s Turin Olympics, creating possible havoc for arriving fans.

Cabin crews are set to strike for 24 hours on Feb. 10 — the day of the opening ceremony — and pilots are scheduled to stage a four-hour protest the previous day.

Turin organizing committee spokesman Giuseppe Gattino noted that strikes in Italy often are postponed or called off at the last minute. Games government supervisor Mario Pescante said the government was looking into the situation.

Several other airlines fly to Turin — Air France, Lufthansa, Air One, Iberia and EasyJet among them.

Local Turin unions signed an “Olympic Truce” in November aimed at avoiding strikes before and during the Feb. 10-26 Winter Games. An agreement to suspend protests on a national level is still being discussed.

The 24-hour strike by flight attendants was originally scheduled for Nov. 28 but postponed because of the proximity of another strike.

“It’s a dispute that has been going on for a long time, and to postpone the strike we would need something really concrete from Alitalia,” said Mauro Rossi, an official with transport union FILT-CGIL.

Rossi said the date was not timed to coincide with the Olympics but was the result of the postponement. He added that it would be difficult to postpone the strike again because the Easter holidays begin shortly after the games, and strikes are banned during that period.

“The Olympics are important, but our dispute is also important,” he said.

Workers contend Alitalia is not respecting parts of the contract it signed with unions, Rossi said.

In October, Alitalia canceled 138 flights ahead of a four-hour protest by cabin crews.

The Feb. 9 pilot strike is set to last from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to the transport ministry Web site.

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posted January 11, 2006 02:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Get Set for an Avalanche of Olympics Coverage

The NBC Universal broadcast and cable outlets have scheduled a record 416 hours of coverage of the Torino Winter Olympics, the company said Tuesday. The figure amounts to an 11 percent increase over the previous record of 375 1/2 hours set during the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002. NBC will carry 182 hours of coverage, while the rest will be divided between the CNBC (61 hours), MSNBC (71 hours), and USA (101 hours) cable networks as well as two HDTV (high definition) channels, NBC HD and Universal HD, which will simulcast programming from the other outlets. NBC has set Bob Costas to anchor the primetime coverage, while Jim Lampley has been set to anchor the daytime and late-night telecasts. NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol indicated that as much as 75 percent of its coverage will be live, including all 54 games of both the men's and women's hockey tournaments. "Our hockey coverage is a fan's dream come true," Ebersol said. In addition NBC has agreed to supply with two-minute highlight videos each day narrated by Costas.

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posted January 13, 2006 01:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Bode DQ'd, then skips mandatory draw
Raich wins, pads World Cup lead; Miller misses ceremony in town square

The Associated Press
Updated: 4:07 p.m. ET Jan. 13, 2006

WENGEN, Switzerland - Bode Miller hit the trifecta: an apology, a disqualification, an absence.

One day after he was humbled for comments about drinking and racing, Miller was disqualified near the end of a World Cup race Friday. The champion skier failed to get the result reversed and later skipped a ceremony in town for the downhill draw for Saturday’s race.

“It just never stops with him,” World Cup race director Guenther Hujara said.

Miller, the defending overall champion, was disqualified just yards from the finish of a slalom, allowing Austria’s Benjamin Raich to win a super-combi and pad his lead in the overall standings.

The super-combi, a new version of the traditional combined, adds the times from a shortened downhill in the morning to a slalom leg a few hours later.

Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt was second and Italy’s Peter Fill was third for his first top-three finish. The top American was Steven Nyman, 19th.

Miller was second fastest in the morning’s downhill and appeared to have won after the slalom, leading Raich by 1.11 seconds. But the New Hampshire skier was disqualified for straddling a gate near the end.

Miller was unable to get his disqualification changed after speaking with Hujara — and his problems didn’t stop there.

He skipped the mandatory downhill bib draw ceremony in the town square, letting down thousands of fans hoping to catch a glimpse of him. It was unclear why he was absent; no other skier missed the draw.

Miller, who often complains of his sponsor and media duties, was supposed to start 27th but will now be the 30th skier out.

Miller, who had delivered his best slalom performance in eight months, said that while the front part of his right ski did hit the flattened gate, his foot never crossed over the pole.

“My ski definitely hit the gate but it (the gate) went down the middle of the ski and my foot was on the right side of it,” Miller said, explaining why he completed his run even though International Ski Federation rules state skiers must abandon a race if they miss a gate to preserve the course. “The tip of my ski went over it but I didn’t hook it completely.”

Article 661.4.1 of the ski rules states that a gate has been passed correctly when both the competitor’s ski tips and both feet have passed across the gate line. The gate line in slalom is the imaginary shortest line between the turning pole and the outside pole. In other words, both skis must be in between the two poles.

“Bode raises the question, but there is not a question,” Hujara said. “There was not a big discussion or a fight. It’s very clear that the ski tip has to cross the gate line, and it’s more than obvious that he was straddling the gate.”

Miller’s sole victory this season came in December in a giant slalom at Beaver Creek, Colo.

“I’ve put a bit of energy in my slalom. I’ve felt so bad in slalom lately,” Miller said. “I felt better today. I’ll be back.”

On Thursday, he apologized for comments during a CBS “60 Minutes” profile, regretting the “confusion and pain” he caused with his remarks about skiing and drinking.

Raich leads the World Cup overall standings with 706 points. Austria’s Michael Walchhofer climbed into second with 520. Miller and teammate Daron Rahlves remained tied but dropped into third with 489.

Raich, 13th after the morning’s downhill, delivered a stunning slalom leg to win with a combined time of 2 minutes, 38.46 seconds. Aamodt finished in 2:38.65 and Fill at 2:38.78.

Raich and Austrian men’s coach Toni Giger watched Miller’s run replayed in slow motion on the jumbo screen in the finish area. They said it seemed clear to them he straddled the gate.

“I’m lucky I don’t have to make that decision,” Raich said.

In the other super-combi race this season in Val d’Isere, France, Walchhofer was awarded the victory last month after winner Didier Defago of Switzerland was disqualified for an equipment violation.

Italy’s Giorgio Rocca, who has swept all four slaloms this season, straddled in the slalom run Friday.

“I’m not mad,” he said. “This was a good training for Sunday’s slalom.”

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posted January 19, 2006 01:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Nearly 400,000 Olympic Tickets Available

Nearly 400,000 tickets are still available for next month's Turin Winter Olympics.

The organizing committee said Thursday that 630,000 of 1 million tickets have been sold, and the target of 830,000 would be met.

"We are certain we will surpass our goal," committee CEO Cesare Vaciago said.

Tickets are still available for every sport at the Feb. 10-26 games. For figure skating, the only remaining tickets cost more than euro100 ($120). Seats for preliminary round hockey games can be had for euro40 ($48).

An extra 30,000 tickets will be given to Turin area schoolchildren at a price of euro3 ($3.60) each.

Most of the tickets — 380,000 — have been sold outside Italy, with the United States leading the way, followed by Germany, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Japan, Russia and the Czech Republic.

Dutch fans purchased most of the speedskating tickets, Norwegians and Germans bought most of the tickets for biathlon and Americans will dominate the crowd for short track, luge and curling.

New ticket packages including admission to the downtown Medals Plaza will go on sale soon.

About 6,000 tickets remain for the Feb. 10 opening ceremony, most of them costing between euro250 ($300) and euro500 ($600). About 10,000 tickets are unsold for the Feb. 26 closing ceremony.

Tickets are available from the Turin organizing committee and national Olympic committees.


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posted January 24, 2006 07:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
So, Where's the Gold?

The Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy are not likely to produce the revenue bonanza that NBC had been hoping for, GE Chairman Jeff Immelt has acknowledged. The online on Monday took note of Immelt's comments during a conference call on Friday that NBC would take in between $650 million and $750 million in revenue. The website observed that NBC had previously said that the Winter Olympics would bring in $900 million. Commented the trade publication: "Now, things look less golden. Even if NBC approaches the high end of Immelt's projections, it may struggle to break even."

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posted February 07, 2006 09:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
American athletes taking to new sports By Vicki Michaelis, USA TODAY

The most decorated U.S. athlete at the 2006 Winter Olympics could be long-track speedskater Chad Hedrick from Spring, Texas, a place far from any kind of ice you won't find at the bottom of a glass.

Hedrick will march into Friday's opening ceremony in Torino alongside fellow Texan Todd Hays, a bobsledder, and fellow speedskaters Jennifer Rodriguez of Miami and Joey Cheek of Greensboro, N.C. All are medal contenders.

What in the name of cold-climate sports is going on here? The U.S. Winter Olympic team, trying to continue its unprecedented success from the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and drawing from an ever-wider population to do it, is becoming a band of converts. Several 2006 U.S. Olympians who have crossed over from other sports, such as inline skating and track and field, are priming the USA's medal hopes for Torino - and future Winter Games - as never before.

"It's no longer you've got to be from Lake Placid (N.Y.) or you've got to be from Park City (Utah). It exposes an entirely different population to the fact that you, too, can make it in the Winter Games," says Steve Roush, the U.S. Olympic Committee's chief of sport performance.

Crossover athletes are not new to the Winter Olympics. The most famous was former NFL star Herschel Walker, who competed in bobsled in the 1992 Games, finishing seventh in the two-man. K.C. Boutiette, the first inline skater to make the Olympic team, first tried speedskating in 1993, and Torino will be his fourth Games.

The 2006 U.S. team is proof that athletes coming over to the cold side are succeeding at unprecedented levels. They are helping to feed expectations the USA will come close to matching the 34 medals it won in Salt Lake City rather than experiencing the dramatic drop-off most nations do after hosting a Winter Games:

Headlined by Hedrick, who won 50 major inline titles before switching, the speedskaters who moved from inline skating could win close to a third of the USA's medals in these Games. Six of the 10 U.S. men's long-track speedskaters and half of the 10 total short-trackers who will compete in Torino were inline skaters.

They switched, many say, in hopes of winning an Olympic medal. "I never thought I was going to make a dime in speedskating," says Hedrick, who was earning $150,000 a year in inline skating when he was converted after watching the 2002 Games. "This was for the gold medal."

Hedrick broke a nine-year Dutch stranglehold on the world allround title, one of speedskating's most revered crowns, just two years after making the switch. In Torino, he's aiming for Eric Heiden's record of five individual gold medals in one Games, set in 1980.

Hays, who led a 2-3 U.S. finish that ended the USA's 46-year Olympic medal drought in men's bobsled in the 2002 Games, now has a 58-year dry spell in his sights. The former University of Tulsa football player and national kickboxing champion could win the first U.S. gold in men's bobsled since 1948. He could even double up in Torino: Hays ranks third in the two-man and fourth in the four-man in this season's World Cup.

Twelve of the 14 men and women on the 2006 Olympic U.S. bobsled team have backgrounds in track and field and/or football. The remaining two, drivers Jean Prahm and Steve Holcomb, got their starts in other sports as well - Prahm in luge and Holcomb in downhill ski racing.

"Track and field is always where I wanted to make the Games," says brakeman Valerie Fleming, a former sprinter and javelin thrower who with driver Shauna Rohbock forms the USA's top women's team. "Bobsled wasn't even a thought in my mind." Rohbock ran track and played soccer at Brigham Young University, taking soccer another step by playing in the now-defunct WUSA, a professional league.

She and Fleming won the bronze medal in last year's world championships. They are third in this season's World Cup standings and favored to join the ever-dominant Germans on the medal stand.

Success draws others

Up to now, most of these athletes have come on their own, stumbling over Winter Olympic possibilities through happenstance rather than aggressive recruiting efforts by winter sports federations.

Fleming attended a bobsled camp after hearing about it from a co-worker. Vonetta Flowers, back for Torino after winning gold in the 2002 Olympics, went to a bobsled tryout when she saw a flier posted by former U.S. bobsledder Bonny Warner. Flowers' husband, like her a college track and field athlete, also tried out but pulled a hamstring during the tryout. "The joke was, 'You have to continue on; you have to live the dream out for the family,' " Vonetta Flowers recalls.

Hedrick was watching the 2002 Games at a Las Vegas casino when he saw former inline skater Derek Parra win gold in world-record time in the 1,500 meters. "Derek was my main competitor when I was inline skating," Hedrick says. "He and I were 1-2 in the U.S. ... I knew that something was possible. I knew my work ethic, I knew my talent; I knew it could happen."

Anthony Lobello, a former inline skater and 2006 short-track Olympian from Tallahassee, Fla., also was moved to make the switch by Parra's 2002 performance. "I was sitting on my couch, going, 'I know this guy,' " Lobello says.

U.S. sports officials are seeing the migration and mulling ways to plumb the crossover pipelines, although they're being cautioned not to neglect their traditional grass-roots programs in the process.

"One of the things you need to be very cautious of is to be dependent on emerging elite athletes coming from other sports because if all of a sudden that dries up, you do want to control your own destiny," Roush says.

Immediately after the 2002 Games, the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation kicked off a college recruitment program, visiting major universities to talk to coaches and scout track and field athletes and football players. The program stirred some interest, but Tom Allen, the women's team manager and recruiting coach for the federation, says it needs to be retooled to be truly productive.

"It's very difficult going to a big university like that, walking in and trying to recruit athletes out of college," he says. "A lot of the coaches are a little wary. In the future we're going to start recruiting athletes like colleges recruit. We're going to do some research on athletes and actually go out and ask them if they're interested."

U.S. Speedskating officials, not wanting to drain inline's talent pool, are reluctant to do anything to lure inline skaters beyond opening their doors when the athletes approach them. Joint development camps and marketing programs with USA Roller Sports haven't advanced beyond the discussion stage.

"I don't think we've developed the relationship well enough where maybe inline can get something from short track and maybe we can get something from inline and work together," says Derrick Campbell, U.S. Speedskating's managing director for short track.

USA Roller Sports executive director Richard Hawkins says he's open to working with speedskating officials and believes his federation already is getting something from the crossover trend.

"Our skaters so far have been proud to say where they're from, which raises the awareness of our sport in the United States," he says.

Crossover is international

The trend toward crossover athletes is on the rise internationally as well. In China and Australia, for example, gymnasts have been transformed into aerial skiers and had a lot of success in recent years.

During a 2003 visit to China, freestyle coaches saw dozens of Chinese women, most of them gymnasts handpicked to boost their country's Winter Olympic prospects, training for aerials. China's approach is paying off. Chinese women won aerials gold and bronze in the 2005 world championships and have enough talent to sweep the medals in Torino.

"It's difficult because Americans do things far differently," head U.S. freestyle coach Jeff Wintersteen says. "The athletes have rights. They qualify via criteria. It's not the way that some of these other nations do things, where they just take people and say, 'You're going to do this.' It's a challenge for us to keep up with that."

Coaches, though, have good reason beyond China's success to stick with their efforts: The two U.S. women's aerials skiers headed to Torino, Emily Cook and Jana Lindsey, were gymnasts as little girls.

"You need to push through a lot of fear, a lot of physical roadblocks," Cook says of training for aerials, "such as when you get injured or when a trick is actually physically difficult. Young gymnasts learn at a very young age how to push their bodies and how to train."

The year before the Salt Lake City Olympics, the U.S. ski team started a "Come Fly With Us" program, inviting gymnasts, through advertisements in gymnastics magazines, to try aerials during summer programs on water ramps in Lake Placid and Park City. The program in Park City has been a hit, but coaches are having a difficult time convincing the women to try it on snow, Wintersteen says.

"It just takes time. It's an extremely difficult sport," Wintersteen says.

Hedrick has progressed remarkably fast from the first time he stepped on ice and fell - because he mistakenly left his skate guards on. But the possibility he, like Heiden, could win five gold medals can give the false impression that the transition from inline skating to speedskating is easy.

Speedskating takes much more refined technique, say those who have made the switch. "Some of them don't make it," long-track speedskater Chris Witty says. "Everybody thinks you can be Chad Hedrick in six months or a year."

Seeing a guy from Spring, Texas, marching into the Winter Olympics to take on speedskating history can have that kind of wildest-dreams effect.

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posted February 09, 2006 09:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Games face a snow job
By Stephen Harris
Wednesday, February 8, 2006 - Updated: 02:20 AM EST

TURIN — The organizers of the XX Olympic Winter Games have had six years and eight months to get everything ready in time for Friday’s Opening Ceremony and the start of competition Saturday.

It looks like they could have used six years and nine months, and maybe a little Papal intervention, to ensure better cooperation from Mother Nature.

The undeniable first impression after a day poking around the city and the mountain venues to the north is that much remains to be done and little time remains. And there is one problem beyond the fixing of mere mortals: a lack of snow.

Just over a week ago, 1-2 feet of pristine white stuff fell in the region, prompting one USOC official, in an assessment of preparations last week, to write: “It was like Christmas morning, turning an industrial city into a magical Olympic host and the mountains from a brown, patchy countryside to a virtual whiteout.”

But most of all that golden snow appears gone now, the victim of three days of astonishing weather — the temperature hitting 59 on Feb. 1 — as northern Italy enjoys a mild winter much like New England. The ski venues are making snow like crazy and snow is even getting trucked in from snowier climes.

“It’s like spring already,” said one woman, shaking her head in dismay. “No snow. This year.”

Whether the lack of snow will impact competitions, well, we’ll wait and see. Maybe it’s the warm and sunny weather, but one can’t quite shake the feeling that folks here are almost confused to see visitors starting to flood into town, acting almost as if word never reached them that the Olympics were coming.

“People act surprised that the Olympics are being held here,” said one local computer technician working yesterday in the main press center. “I don’t think they had any idea what was going to happen.”

Everywhere you walk downtown, construction and other touchups are underway — the asphalt for new sidewalks, lines painted on main streets, signs going up, although anyone relying on signage to get where they’re going probably isn’t going to get there.

A journalist who has been here for nearly two weeks watched the mad scramble to finish venues, a task he thinks probably now isn’t possible.

“The people here didn’t want the Olympics, and they don’t like it,” he said. “But now there’s this mad rush to get everything finished. It may be too late.”

Folks who’ve watched one of the final dress rehearsals for the Opening Ceremony say the Olympic Stadium is nowhere near ready for the grand event.

A much-ballyhooed element of these Games is it’s the first at which all venues offer wireless Internet access. But in the press center yesterday, with only a fraction of the reporters who will be here trying to log on, the system overloaded and crashed. It was up and running within a couple of hours, but it did not bode well for the cyberspace crush to come.

On busy Turin streets, lanes are supposed to be limited to Olympic traffic only. But Turin drivers have about the same respect for these traffic laws as Boston drivers do to slowing down at yellow lights.

“I think they look at this, the Olympic lanes, as just sort of a suggestion,” said one visitor.

Still, Olympic veterans can tell you that such early woes are not unusual during the final days before the Games. Things usually get ironed out in time, if barely.

“It’s like an 8 p.m. dinner party,” wrote one USOC official a week ago in an assessment of preparations.

“Don’t show up at 7:55, or you’ll see someone in wet hair vacuuming the living room. It ain’t ready yet, but it will be. The Olympics will begin on time and a couple of guys on skis will race each other, no matter what.”

He’s probably right. But maybe organizers ought to still see what the Pope can do about some snow.

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