Arts + Culture

The Olympics Effect

by Bob Payne

Turin, Italy, Winter 2006:
The "America Voted" Olympics

Going for gold: No one expects the Winter Games to attract as much attention as the summer version. But how would you like to be the host city whose Winter Games were beaten in the TV ratings by American Idol? And the local crowd, judging by the number of empty seats, didn't seem that much more interested. Yet despite those embarrassments, the Olympics were good for Turin; the $3.6 billion it spent was part of a larger, more ambitious effort by the long-decaying city, home of the Shroud of Turin (and the automaker Fiat), to reinvent itself as a destination capable of competing for visitors with the likes of Milan and Florence. Helping toward that end, even though much of the competition took place hours away in the mountains, were the ceremonies in the piazzas (pictured) around town, which gained these Games the agreeable sobriquet "the Piazza Olympics."

Tourism legacy: Probably most significant will be a project that began with the Olympics: the "Spina," a wide swath of redevelopment that will be associated with a gallery of architectural projects from acclaimed designers and that is to become the cultural center of the reemerging city.

Results: Silver. Never mind the near bankruptcy that threatened to keep the Games from opening—that just seemed so Italian. If the events had been slotted during reruns of Joey, the TV ratings would have been higher.

NEXT: London calling>

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