Chasing the chaos
I love Italian people. I really do. Their natural inclination is to be friendly and helpful. But I have to say, everything is sheer chaos here.
It’s two days until the Winter Olympics begin. That’s the Olympics, where thousands of people from all over the world descend on the city of Torino, whose population of 900,000 is sure to quadruple, and on all the little mountain villages, whose populations, I think, normally hibernate for a good part of the year.
So, somebody tell me why at these mountain venues, there are like three toilets? And why the hell are there like, just two lines to pass through security and into the venues? People are going to be in the process of having their belt buckles setting off metal detectors while a swarm of others wait their turn, while the entirety of the downhill or halfpipe event come and go before they know how to spell “ciao.”
I was prepared for the “last-minute” Italian style of doing things, but I can’t help but be flabbergasted at how haphazard some of the “systems” are around here.
The bus system is the first that comes to mind. I went to Sestriere today, the venue for alpine technical racing events (men’s downhill and super-G are up the road. Of course, you can’t really tell how far up the road by looking at a map or reading any of these so-called directions). I saw that bus No. 7 was the only one that could take me back to my hotel in San Sicario (which, ironically, would be about a 20 minute journey by ski lift and skiing. That’s if the chairlifts were open and running). I stood out freezing for 40 minutes waiting for my bus as about 40 Olympic staff members milled around talking to each other. Finally I asked one of them the ETA for next bus No. 7 (after first asking if he spoke English). With a giant smile he said, “Yes” (to both questions). Then I asked again when bus No. 7 would be coming, and with the same giant smile, he said, “I don’t know. Maybe in 20 minutes. I call someone for you.”
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He called. He hung up the phone. As his face nearly burst with joy, he said, “Bus No. 7 start run on 11 February. It doesn’t come today.”
I really wondered why Bus No. 7 had a stop built next to it and a schedule posted. After all, nothing else around here has any such luxury.
Drills can be heard at all times. Scaffolding is being shuffled through the muddy (and I mean, pure mud) walkways that lead to the venues, and not everything is open yet. The most important and nerve-racking part of this not-quite-up-and-running scenario is that there is no wireless connection … “yet.”
Getting back to the bus story, my friend directed me onto bus. No. 6, which went about halfway back to where I needed to go. From this point, my friend happily told me, I “can maybe see another bus.” Rather than taking this gamble, I took the halfway bus and saw that the cable car was still running. It goes from the base of the valley in Cesana, up and over the luge, skeleton and bobsled courses, to the base of San Sicario.
I waved to the guy behind the window and hopped in a car and took off up the cable into the black night. I was on for three minutes when the thing stopped. I peered over at the shimmering (but not quite finished) bobsled venue. It was almost 8 p.m. Minutes went by with no movement. I was at a point of sheer panic, sizing up the lineup of injuries I would sustain by jumping off, when finally the damn thing started again.
I reached the top to begin my walk through the mud only to discover that the Olympic security fencing, which would not, I repeat, absolutely NOT stand a chance of preventing anyone so inclined to cause trouble at the Games from doing so, had been reconstructed to block my path.
I’m saving my next bus ride for Friday’s trip to the opening ceremony … if it starts on time.