What's great about Torino? Here's my Top 10
New day, new city.
It's been a good 24 hours for Torino as the city imbibed the Olympic spirit from Friday's Opening Ceremony. The three-hour blockbuster may have bored two billion viewers, but, hey, it worked here. Now it's time for myself to get into the Olympic spirit. You want to know 10 weird and wonderful things about Torino? You got them.
Bode Miller, so the joke goes, after having a few drinks on his first night in Torino, walked past this statue, and in a wild panic, phoned for an ambulance. The statue is dedicated to workers who built the 8-mile Frejus Tunnel connecting France and Italy around 1870. How many died? I don't know, but I counted at least seven workers on the rocks. The monument gets mixed reviews from "haunting" to "diabolically bad." Friends from a much-maligned town in Connecticut dispute the claim the statue was originally made as a "Welcome to New Britain" monument.
The roof of this speedskating venue is, according to the official boast, "completely suspended without internal supports." Expect a world record if it starts coming down during a race.
A café in central Torino has a bronze bull's genitals on the sidewalk, and rubbing your heels on them brings you good luck (rubbing them with anything else brings you the local polizia). I have yet to see the items in question for myself as I'm too embarrassed to ask a local for directions, visual gestures and all.
The dukes, counts and kings of the House of Savoy were the big boys in this area of Europe for almost a thousand years. Among other things, they've left the initials FERT inscribed on various objects and buildings and nobody knows what the letters stand for. "Women will be your ruin" (in English) is one sexist theory. Strange, isn't it, not to know really famous initials? Go on then, tell me what ESPN stands for.
This is the most recognizable building in Torino, now housing the national film museum. Visitors' regulations include Article 14, which forbids bringing into the building "works of art and antiques." I e-mailed the Mole Antonelliana press office to ask: "Has anyone ever tried to smuggle a Picasso or a 17th century Christiaan Huygens pendulum clock into the museum?" No reply yet.
Shroud of Turin
Or as we say at ESPN, the Shroud of Torino. This isn't weird, just rather wonderful. The Shroud is claimed to be the burial cloth of Jesus and, even if it isn't, the centuries-old work of the forger is admirable. Kept deep, deep, deep in Torino's cathedral, the Shroud won't be displayed again by papal order until 2025 "unless there occureth before this date the Second Coming of our Lord or the election to the U.S. presidency of Lamar Alexander."
Italy has had some 60 governments in the last 60 years. That's not a joke. So, will the government led by conservative mega-businessman Silvio Berlusconi last out the Games? And will Berlusconi's libido last until the April 9 general elections? The prime minister has reportedly pledged not to have any sex until that date.
Here's ... Egypt?
Welcome to the Fondazione Museo delle Antichita Egizie di Torino, bizarrely the second-largest collection of Ancient Egyptian antiquities in the world. The biggest, in Cairo, has the gold funeral mask of Tutankhamen, described as the greatest human object ever made. I recently stayed just a five-minute walk away from the Cairo museum, but never made it as "Matlock" was on the telly. Guilt will get me along this time.
The Olympic Flame
An amazing 10,001 torchbearers carried the flame during its international journey of 7,000 miles from Ancient Olympia in Greece to the city of Torino. I would like to apologize for messing up the nice round number. Just felt like a go.
Love thy Canadian
At the Olympic Stadium, North and South Korea marched together Friday night with two athletes carrying one flag. The power of the Olympics can bring sworn enemies together, and I can't be the first to suggest Canada and the United States do this at the 2008 Beijing Games, as long as Canada gets the pole, it's their flag, they're not called Americans and nobody says they complain too much because they don't. All right?
Brian Church is a columnist with the Athens News in Greece. He will be contributing to ESPN.com throughout the Olympics.
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