NPR logo Finding the City Behind the Olympic Venue

Finding the City Behind the Olympic Venue

Its alpine venues can sometimes seem far from the town center of Turin. LaPresse/Torino 2006 hide caption

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LaPresse/Torino 2006

Its alpine venues can sometimes seem far from the town center of Turin.

LaPresse/Torino 2006

Working side by side with 10,000 journalists, there's certainly a global feel covering the Olympics. I got a particular kick out of the two reporters wearing matching parkas with "TV 5 Mongolia" on the back. In the midst of this international smorgasbord, however, it has been hard to fix on the one spot that matters most at these games, the host city. I have had no sense of place with Turin — it has been a backdrop, something to gaze at on bus rides here and cab rides there.

I didn't realize all this until today.

I was off doing an interview across town — across the River Po — a good 20-minute cab ride from my workspace. After the interview, I looked for a taxi back. There weren't any so I stood and waited as dusk settled over the city. Then it hit me — wait a minute, I said. "I'm walkin'." And so I did. And that's when I realized what I had been missing.

The busy butcher shops handling the end-of-workday businesses; the many little bars and patisseries where people snacked and smoked. The old women shuffling along bustling Via Nizza, with winter hats pulled down almost to their eyes...walking their motley-looking dogs. I stopped at one point to gaze into a pet shop window where puppies lay snoozing in big cages. One of those old women saw me smiling and started talking — when I shrugged she said, "No Italiano?" I said, "Si"... and she kept talking. After several references to "veterinary" I realized she was saying, "Don't buy these doggies in the window. Get 'em from the vet." Or at least I think that's what she meant.

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Dog-less, I wandered on. When I finally got close to my office, when I started seeing the "Olympic 2006" banners...and police...and Olympic volunteers in their trademark black, red and yellow parkas... I was disappointed. I had walked an hour and could easily have gone four more. But I also felt a sense of satisfaction. For the first time in the 15 days I'd been here, the Olympics had become just a little bit more...the Turin Olympics.