Bring On Sestriere and Super Sunday's Downhill

A first taste of mountain air following the "rhythm, passion, speed"... and Eurotrash pop spectacle that is the Olympics Opening Ceremonies.

Frutte del Mare: Indoor market stall at Turin's Piazza della Republicca     Photo: Jack Shaw

A Turin Olympics Glossary

Tune in over the Winter Olympics as we take an alphabetical wander through the highlights of Turin and some of the buzzwords you’ll hear over the media airwaves.

Opening Ceremonies went down last night and the center of the city actually quieted down for a few hours. I picked my girlfriend up yesterday at the aeroporto, which was an adventure within itself. Another example of Turin rushing to update their transportation system at the last minute, it hardly resembles any international airport I have ever seen.

We caught a few minutes of the Opening Ceremonies in the downtown Piazza San Carlo, which has a big screen broadcasting non-stop Olympics action on RAI Sport (Italy's main sport broadcaster). After that, we watched the teams' entrances and the lighting of the torch from the hotel bar; missed the big man Luciano Pavoratti but managed to catch the Yoko Ono segment. I know the whole world is watching, but the OC always seems to be a sad representation of what passes for worldwide pop culture. I need to see some sports soon.

It has been a week since I left my home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where we're experiencing our best winter in a decade. The Alps are looking pretty dry, but I'm feeling the pull of the mountains regardless and need to get out of the city. The Downhill is Sunday in Sestriere, and that's the main event of these games as far as I'm concerned.

Saturday morning we went to the Piazza della Republicca, where Europe's biggest market happens daily. There are people hawking everything you can imagine, from knock-off sunglasses and jeans to fish, fruit, and cuts of meat you can't imagine people actually eat. It is such a trip to have vendors hollering at you about their wares and teasing you in Italian. The Pescheria (fish market) was especially outrageous, with the pungent odor and visual buffet creating a sensory overload. We stocked up on Prosciutto San Daniele and Grana Padano cheese and headed to Sestriere for the Men's DH tomorrow.

I was told you couldn't park in Oulx, the mountain gateway about 50 miles west of Turin, without a permit, but we breezed right in and located the shuttle bus to the mountain events fairly easily. Scalpers were all over the parking area, selling luge, ski jumping, and freestyle tickets. It was reassuring to see that there were tickets available, but I still felt an urgency to get up to the alpine base and square away seats for tomorrow.

Getting up to Sestriere took about an hour, passing through Cesana (home to the biathalon and luge) along the way. Thankfully, we scored tickets to the DH with no problem, worked our way into the USA house, and met up with the Ski Racing magazine crew, Jonny Moseley, Resi Steigler, and Ted Ligety. Big things are expected of Team USA and there is an exciting air of anticipation here in Sestriere. I can't wait until tomorrow... it feels like Christmas Eve up here.

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