Well, it's over. Right up until the minute before the opening ceremonies for the 20th Winter Olympics in Torino, there was swearing, crying screaming, praying. Thousands of workers simultaneously welding, bricklaying, asphalting and wiring. We took a drive into the city three days before the festivities were supposed to begin. In my minds eye, I see an electrician at what was to be Medals Plaza, running around in a circle, smacking himself on the top of the head. Chaos, he kept repeating, complete and utter chaos!
And chaos it was. But chaos with potential. While the jackhammers could still be heard, the electricity had started to spread in the streets, as the local Turinese peered out of their windows, wondering what would be happening in their peaceful city over the next few weeks. What would be happening would be the biggest party that Torino had ever seen in its history - the world would turn its eye momentarily away from Rome, Venice and Florence, and instead focus all of its infinite energy on the beautiful, understated, underrated city át the foot of the Alps.
See, that part was not really clear to the Torinese. Sure, sure, Olympics. Sure, sports, construction, lots of money, the city gets a facelift. But the spotlight - and the resulting millions of people who experienced the city for the first time - came as a huge surprise for many of the residents of a city never mentioned in the same breath as The Big Three. Torino, a working city, a factory city. A blue collar city. A city whose day had come and gone. Melancholy.
On the day before the festivities began, we went back up once again. We were going to be having the family of Evan Lysacek as guests. Evan was on the US Men's Figure Skating Team. Since we would be transporting the family to and from the events, we needed to figure out how to get them where they needed to be as quickly as possible.
This was the day that the Today Show would start broadcasting from Piazza San Carlo. After we felt comfortable with getting into and out of the skating venues, we got the the piazza early enough to catch Andrea Bocelli warming up for his performance. Al and Mat had just flown in. Katie had been in Italy for several days, broadcasting from Rome, Florence and Milan. I had wished that the Olympic organizers had convinced the Today show to skip those cities and instead focus the spotlight on the beautiful and varied regions within Piemonte. Oh, well.
During the show, American athletes were walking about, waiting for their turn in front of the camera. The atmosphere was wonderful. Brilliant blue skies. Alberto Tomba was there, joking easily with the crowd. Italians gathered, first to shake hands with LaBomba and then to hear Andrea sing. The fact that the show was being broadcast across the United States didn't interest them at all.
During one of his walk-by's, Al Roker put the mike in front of me and asked me where I was from. I announced that I was from New York but had a B&B in Piemonte. Michael was behind me, holding up our handwritten sign which we had made in the parking garage. We got the hugest plug of our life before the rolling NBC cameras. Thanks, Al!!
I held my breath and waited. We got home, and had over 20,000 hits on our website. Emails came pouring in from all over the country.
It was a day like no other. Torino in the last minute frenzy of chaotic preparations, the magic in the air, getting on the air. I knew, knew, knew from that moment that the Italians were going to pull of an Olympic celebration with so much color, fire, and style that the world will have never seen the likes of it. Even if they had to weld and hammer and wire while the skiiers were flying down the slopes.
Viva Italia. Life can be so grand.