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CIPRA's point of view: Torino 2006: a hard lesson - but nothing learned

Aug 21, 2012 / alpMedia
The Olympic Winter Games 2006 have left a burdensome legacy. The idea is thus to close the loss-making bobsleigh and replace it with an indoor ski slope. Is Turin simply throwing good money after bad?
Image caption:
Olympic bobsleigh run in Turin: a loss maker for years, but an even bigger indoor ski piste will not solve the problem. © CIPRA IT
It costs 1,500 euros a day to maintain the bobsleigh run that was built specially for the 2006 Winter Olympics. That equates to over 40,000 euros a month for a facility that is scarcely ever used. The operators therefore want to close it permanently. In its place, according to private investors, will be built Europe's longest indoor ski piste. The city of Turin has apparently learned nothing from the loss-making Olympic Games: this project will simply be throwing good money after bad.
The idea behind the indoor ski piste is to attract thousands of tourists to the region, with guaranteed snow throughout the year, even in August. It is however common knowledge that monocultures in tourism are just as fragile as those in agriculture. Locals and holidaymakers alike seek variety in the Alps - to say nothing of the fact that Turin's best ski pistes lie practically on its doorstep.
The bobsleigh run operators and the city authorities would be better off simply shutting down the infrastructure at once. Its building alone cost 120 million euros. Demolition, including the disposal of the 48 tonnes of ammonia required for producing and cooling the ice, will devour another 220 million euros. The energy-intensive ski dome would swallow up yet more cash. Even in the flatlands of Germany, a long way from the snow-capped mountains, experience has shown that indoor ski pistes struggle to make a profit and require subsidies to keep them going.
It is ultimately always the taxpayer who stumps up for infrastructure projects of this kind. The people of Piemonte have now paid dearly for their lesson. Will a gold medal at the next Winter Olympics be suitable compensation? Armin Zöggeler, the Italian luger, honorary citizen of Cesana and 2006 Olympic champion, has promised to participate in the 2014 games again if the bobsleigh run is not demolished. It is supposedly very similar to the one in Sochi and represents his only chance to train at home.
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