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Turin Winter Olympics 2006

Apr 10, 2014
Image caption:
© Francesco Pastorelli, CIPRA Italien.

The 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin had a formidable backer in Gianni Agnelli, the former president of Fiat. He used his international influence to win over the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in favour of the Piedmont city. It is worth remembering that Fiat has always shaped politics in Turin and the region of Piedmont as a whole. So it is hardly surprising that Fiat had people it could trust sitting on the TOROC Organising Committee and at the Turin 2006 Agency. While TOROC was a private-law foundation that was not subject to the rules, regulations and controls that govern public contracts, the Turin 2006 Agency was established as a public-sector body entrusted with implementing the installations and infrastructure needed for the Games using public funds.

3.5 billion euros – instead of 500 million as budgeted

Funds of around two billion euros were made available for the Winter Olympics in Turin: 1.4 billion from the Italian government, 200 million from the municipality of Turin, 300 million from private individuals, and 159 million from other bodies and authorities. Revenue from TV rights, sponsorship, ticket sales, etc. came in at just under one billion euros. Organisational costs rose to around 1.5 billion euros while the sports facilities cost over two billion euros to build. More public funds therefore had to be raised to plug the deficit. The application dossier submitted in 1998 had budgeted for costs estimated at around 500 million euros.

Publicity for the city, and ruins for the valleys

For the whole world it was to be the “Turin Games”. But in fact only a few indoor events were held in the city of Turin itself. Most of the competitions took place in mountain resorts in the Susa and Chisone valleys. For the city of Turin it was therefore an opportunity to market itself. The same could not be said of the mountain resorts – once the Games were over, they were left to struggle with the legacy of expensive, large-scale facilities such as the bobsleigh run and the ski jumps. These facilities, which had cost 60 million euros and 35 million euros respectively, remained virtually unused after 2006 because the operating costs were too high (2.2 million euros a year for the bob run and 1.5 million euros for the ski jumps) and because so few athletes in Italy actually practise these sports.
The IOC acted irresponsibly in refusing to allow existing facilities in Albertville (the venue for the 1992 Games) to be used, even though they were not far from the Turin event centres. The Italian organisers also rejected suggestions put forward by environmental organisations to set up provisional facilities that could be dismantled after the Games, making them more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
See also The Shreds of Turin 2006, AlpsInsight No. 94, page 16

A duped population

Public opinion was greatly influenced by the mass media – and in Italy the mass media is controlled mainly by the political and economic lobbies. The media showcased only the positive aspects. Presumably, unlike other locations, the majority of the population would have voted in favour of the Games in the event of a referendum. As small communities with little or no influence on the major strategic decisions taken in Rome and Turin, the mountain resorts fell into line in the hope of getting their own financial slice of the pie.
Only the No Olimpiadi Committee and environmental organisations spoke out against the Games. Their “we’re against everything!” strategy continued even after the Games had been awarded to Turin, yet contributed nothing towards improving environmentally detrimental and overpriced projects; instead, this approach proved in hindsight to be ineffective and unsuccessful.

The sad reality of the Games’ legacy

The Olympic Games were meant to enable a restructuring of tourism in the mountains around Turin. New hotel beds were to be created in an area dominated by second homes, quality tourism was to be promoted, and the season extended. But none of this happened. The Olympic villages were converted into second homes, and the only boom in tourism is the usual one at the end of the year. Weekend skiers still cause huge traffic jams on the roads, yet the rest of the year there is very little going on, just as before.
Given its size, the city of Turin was presumably better able to accommodate the large-scale event than the mountain resorts. The Oval, which was built for the speed skating competitions and cost around 70 million euros, was converted into a trade fair exhibition hall and the Palaolimpico (cost: 85 million euros) is now a venue for concerts and events. By contrast the media centre and the Olympic Village that accommodated the athletes on the former Mercati Generali site have now become a sort of ghetto where asylum seekers and refugees squat illegally and buildings are left to rack and ruin.

About the author:

Francesco Pastorelli is the Director of CIPRA Italy. In this capacity he has followed the 2006 Games in Turin from the city’s initial candidacy to the present day, focusing mainly on their impact on the mountain resorts.
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