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Sunday, February 24, 2002
Italian city prepares for next Winter Olympics

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY -- The busiest four years of Evelina Christillin's life are about to begin, and she can't wait.

"It will be thrilling," said Christillin, deputy president of the organizing committee for the next Winter Olympics, in Turin, Italy, in 2006.

Christillin was the force behind the bid that won the games for the northern Italian city. As the white Olympic flag is passed from Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson to Turin Mayor Sergio Chiamparino at the conclusion of these games, so, too, does the spotlight shift back to Europe.

"We have looked forward to this moment," said Christillin, working with a $1.3 billion budget.

She, committee president Valentino Castellini and other organizers have spent weeks studying the ski slopes and skating rinks of Utah, picking up planning tips on how to do it four years down the road.

One thing's certain: Turin will have a much different look, feel and focus than Salt Lake.

"We will not try to imitate," Christillin said. "We do really hope to do as well as America. But we are Italians. You are Americans -- Western Americans. We don't have the wide-open space. We don't have the hotels or the eight-lane interstate highways into the mountains as you do. We will have to do some things differently."

Turin is in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy, on the banks of the Po River. Like Salt Lake City, the skiing events will take place in the surrounding mountains, mostly in the Alpine resort of Sestriere.

But unlike Utah's capital, Turin will have many venues within the city limits. An old marketplace will be the site of the Olympic Village. Ice sports will be in town, with a new 12,500-seat arena for hockey and a remodeled 10,000-seat rink for figure skating and short track.

"The focal point will be the city," Christillin said. "We are building arenas and halls downtown. I think they will be different games."

Turin is a centuries-old metropolis of a million people, filled with baroque churches, restored palaces and 40 museums. The Regio Theater is a shrine of opera. The main cathedral, the Duomo, houses the Shroud of Turin, considered by some to be the burial cloth of Christ. As the home of Fiat, Turin is Italy's Motown.

"It's different than here," Christillin said. "Our culture and history are everywhere to be seen and will be an important part of our games."

Turin won the 2006 Games in the first campaign held under strict new rules imposed in the aftermath of the $1 million scandal involving the Salt Lake City bid. Christillin chafed under the restrictions, which barred visits to bid cities by IOC members.

"You cannot just show a person a picture of a restaurant," she complained at one point before the 1999 vote. In the end, however, Turin may have benefitted.

Many observers felt Turin was chosen over Swiss bidder, Sion, because International Olympics Committee member Marc Hodler of Switzerland was the chief whistleblower in the scandal.

Christillin told the IOC at its general assembly early this month that changes had to be made to the planned bobsled run in nearby Oulx because of geological problems found in testing.

IOC review teams have nudged Turin to move faster in some areas of preparations, although their prods haven't been close to the dire warnings issued to Athens, which is considered to be behind schedule in some preparations for the 2004 Summer Games.