The Olympics

The Olympics


News, information and stories about the Olympics.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Germany Wins Olympics

Congratulations to Germany for coming out top of the medal table in the Turin Winter Olympics.

They won 29 medals; 11 gold, 12 silver and 6 bronze.

The USA came second (9 gold, 9 silver and 7 bronze) and Austria, despite the doping scandal, third (9 gold, 7 silver and 7 bronze).

Monday, February 27, 2006

Winter Olympics End

The Winter Olympics in Turin ended last night, in the theme of an Italian carnival.

A large set was constructed to replicate an Italian piazza.

The show included dancers, clowns, acrobats and gymnasts, confetti and pyrotechnics.

Italian tenor star Andrea Bocelli, Latin pop singer Ricky Martin and Canadian rock singer Avril Lavigne all made an appearance.

Valentino Castellani, president of Turin's Games organising committee, said that the Olympics was about building a culture of peace.


"It has been a great celebration of sports. We learned that fair play and respect for your opponents are strong values of this fantastic event that we have lived together."

During the speech a man in a black T-shirt rushed to the microphone and shouted the motto of these Olympic games, "Passion Lives Here."

He was then bundled off by security.

International Olympic Committee President, Jacques Rogge, then said:

"Spread the Olympic dream in your countries. You are the true ambassadors of our values. And give back to sport what it has given you."


"And now, in accordance with tradition, I declare the 20th Olympic Winter Games closed and I call upon the youth of the world to assemble four years from now in Vancouver to celebrate the 21st Olympic Winter Games."

Next stop, Beijing 2008.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Tests Continue

The IOC announced last night that the first round of tests on the 10 Austrian athletes, raided by police last Sunday for alleged drug use, were negative.

However, there is still much to do.

The IOC have already started making blood tests on the athletes, there will then be a general inquiry.

During the raid the police took bags of blood. The practice of "blood on feet", as it is called by athletes, is whereby extra blood is injected into an athlete from a donor in order to increase the haemoglobin level. This improves the athlete's ability to oxygenate the blood.

Needless to say, this "vampire" method of improving performance is cheating.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Bomb Scares In Turin

Italian police stopped a car near the main Media Centre for the Turin Winter Olympics on Thursday afternoon, they had suspicions that it contained a bomb.

The car was stopped along the Via Nizza, and the traffic was blocked for over an hour.

The bomb squad and firefighters were brought in.

The police used a controlled explosion to enter the red Honda, which had been abandoned at Fabio Filzi Piazza with engine running. Police blew open the left door of the car, as helicopters hovered overhead on the Via Nizza.

They towed away the car after an hour long investigation.

Police are still looking for the car's owner.

On Wednesday evening, shuttle buses for the media were stopped for about an hour after one driver had engine trouble and called police fearing a bomb.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Doping Scandal Deepens

The doping story relating to Walter Mayerand the Austrian team, deepened; it is reported that Wolfgang Perner and Wolfgang Rottmann may participated in "illegal methods", as further leaks about the raid on the Austrian team HQ at the weekend emerge.

Police officers have allegedly seized unlabeled drugs, a blood transfusion machine and dozens of syringes.

The Austrian ski federation president, Peter Schroecksnadel, said that Wolfgang Perner and Wolfgang Rottmann who left the Games after the raids had confessed to a team official that they "may have used illegal methods."

A commission is being set up to investigate.

Schroecksnadel stated that it was "a mistake" for the Austrian team to have allowed Mayer to coach in a private capacity at the Turin Games.

Investigators also found more syringes at Mayer's quarters.

This is rather a slap in the face to Schroecksnadel who, on Tuesday was still in denial, was huffing and puffing that the investigation was "no longer about sport, it's just about rumours."

It is time that the athletes, and their "managers", got it into their heads that this cheating will not be tolerated.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Olympics Lowest Rated Ever

It seems that if you are a TV executive at NBC, you may not be a very happy bunny at the moment.

According to Media Life, this year's Winter Olympics on NBC will be the lowest-rated games in Olympic history. The Turin Games have pulled in 21.1M viewers per night; this is less that the previous lowest ever Olympics, the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics, which averaged 21.5M total viewers per night.

Two questions face NBC

1 How to improve the current ratings?

2 Do they bother investing so much time and effort into future Games?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Mayer In Psychiatric Hospital

The Austrian biathlon coach Walter Mayer, who was charged yesterday with criminal offences including civil disorder, property damage and assault in Austria, has now been admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

Peter Schroecksnadel, Austrian Ski Federation President, said:

"Walter Mayer is in the psychiatric hospital, unfortunately. He's in custody to protect himself because apparently he's said he wanted to commit suicide or something like that. I couldn't talk to him myself."

Mayer had managed to trigger a drugs raid on the Austrian team bases on Saturday night. It is reported that one athlete had thrown medical gear, including syringes, out of the window during the raid.

Magistrates in Turin have begun an investigation into Mayer.

However, Schroecksnadel claims that the police had found no banned substances:

"There were no drugs found which are doping. There were syringes and transfusion equipment and devices which can be used to measure haemoglobin levels but ... this is legitimate."

Monday, February 20, 2006

More Dope

Seemingly dope is never very far from the surface in the Olympics these days.

The Carabinieri paramilitary police "visited" the Austrian cross-country and biathlon team accommodation overnight, allegedly after blood doping equipment linked to the team's Nordic team coach Walter Mayer was found in Austria.

The International Olympic Committee also tested at least 10 Austrian cross-country skiers and biathletes.

Mayer had been banned from the Olympics, until after 2010, on suspicion of performing blood transfusions at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. He had visited the team in Italy, but then managed to crash his car into an Austrian police roadblock on Sunday evening.

Austrian cross-country skier, Juergen Pinter, said:

"We were surprised in our room. Suddenly the police came in and didn't let us leave on the night before the competition.

This happened without any positive result from doping control in the team. There's definitely no doping in the Austrian team.

It's crazy

Friday, February 17, 2006

First Dope of The Season

Congratulations to Olga Pyleva of Russia, who has won the dubious Olympic distinction of being the first competitor during this year's Winter Olympics in Turin to be thrown out for a positive doping test.

She was one of the favorites in Thursday's 7.5KM biathlon event. She had won the women's 15KM on Monday. However, she tested positive for a banned stimulant carphedon, after winning the gold medal.

Nikolai Durmanov, the head of Russia's anti-doping committee, claimed that the test result was a mistake; and that it was caused by an over-the-counter medication given to Pyleva by a doctor last month, for an ankle injury.

The Olympics, ever keen to protect its "clean" image, had claimed that Pyleva's absence from the event was due to illness.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Olympics Tax Hike

The good citizens of London are now realising that winning the right to host the 2012 Olympics is something of a poison chalice.

Aside from the disruption and chaos that the Games will bring, there is also the none too small matter of financing it.

It seems that those who pay council tax in London are going to see a rise of at least £33.80 in their council tax bills, in order for the Games to be adequately funded.

That is the result of Mayor Ken Livingstone's budget that was passed yesterday.

Olympic Overload

Those visitors to Turin who are currently suffering from sporting overload, as the Olympics are in full swing, may take comfort from the fact that the hosts are providing some non sporting entertainment in the evenings.

Whitney Houston and Duran Duran are scheduled to appear with other acts, who perform at the Olympic Village's Medals Plaza after each night's awards ceremony.

Also on the bill are; Avril Lavigne, Andrea Bocelli, Anastacia and Ricky Martin.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

British Goal - Come Fourth

It seems that Britain is maintaining its much lambasted policy of "it is the competition that counts, not the winning", by aiming not to finish first in the 2012 Olympics but fourth.

The British Treasury prepared a funding submission, A Sporting Chance for 2012, which was secret until it was leaked.

The report, which analyses medal targets, the size of the team and the quality of participating athletes, concludes that in order to achieve fourth place UK Sport requires a further £49.5M per annum.

Fourth place would require 120 medallists to win at least 60 medals, including 17 golds.

Hardly a noble aspiration is it?

Samsung Makes Full Use of the Olympics

Samsung is trying to make full use of its sponsorship of the Turni Winter Olympics, and has opned a showroom in Turin.

However, some local and global civic groups are not so impressed and have been criticising the International Olympic Committee and its official sponsors in Turin over the commercialisation of the Olympics.

A number of different anti-globalisation groups held demonstrations all over Italy during the Olympic torch relay, which was exclusively sponsored by Samsung and Coca Cola.

There was even an attempt to burn a Samsung flag, by students of Turin University, when the torch relay neared the city on Friday. The demonstration was intended to fight excessive corporate advertising in the Olympics, and the environmental damage resulting from the construction of the venues.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Big Bucks For NBC

NBC have announced that they have sold approximately $900M of advertising for its coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.

NBC paid $613M for the rights to broadcast the Games.

NBC made a profit of $70M from the games in Salt Lake City, in 2002.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

And So It Begins

The Turin Winter Olympics kicked off last night without a hitch.

The opening ceremony, held in front of an audience of 30000, lasted 3 hours and involved 2500 competitors from 80 countries.

The ceremony began with Italian gold medalist Yuri Chechi, swinging a hammer onto an anvil which kindled a ball of flame.

Skaters dressed in red with flame-shooting helmets entered the arena; followed by dancing tree-men, cows and snowballs.

The ceremony was a mix of Italian Renaissance and rave dancing. Twenty eight acrobats formed themselves into the shape of a dove.

Then supermodel Carla Bruni, dressed in a sparkling white floor-length gown, carried the Italian flag across the stage.

The Olympic flag was carried in by eight women: 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Muta Maathai of Kenya; Chile's Isabel Allende, two-time winner of the Nobel Prize for literature; Cambodian human rights activist Somaly Mam; Sophia Loren; Susan Sarandon; and three Olympic medalists, Nawal el-Moutawakel of Morocco, Manuela di Centa of Italy and Maria Mutola of Mozambique. Yoko Ono appeared on stage to recite John Lennon's "Imagine."

This is the easy bit, now the organisers must ensure that the games run smoothly without any unpleasant interruptions or scandals.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Security Nightmare

The security issues surrounding the forthcoming Winter Olympics, which open in Turin later today, are proving to be quite a headache for the organisers.

Authorities are spending over $100m on security, with 15,000 police officers being deployed.

There will be a no-fly zone over the city, as 15 heads of state attend today's opening ceremony.

Yesterday the Olympic flame was diverted in Turin, to avoid protests over a planned local high-speed rail link and over spending on the Games.

The Italian government are focusing on two issues; the possibility of a Muslim protest about the Danish cartoons and a very aggressive series of demonstrations from Italian anarchists and subversive groups.

Two Nato surveillance aircraft will enforce the no-fly ban over Turin during the opening ceremony.

The torch relay carrying the Olympic flame around Italy has already been disrupted several times during its two-month trip.

Protesters say that tunnelling for the railway in the Susa valley, where some of the events will be held, will ruin the environment and release asbestos and uranium into the atmosphere.

One protester is quoted by Reuters as saying:

"These are dirty Games because they have spent huge amounts of money and we don't know what use it will be in the future."

The question is, are the Olympics now proving to be just too expensive and too disrupting to be held anymore?

World's Tallest Cauldron

The Turin Winter Olympics has already broken one record, that of having the world's tallest cauldron which will hold the Olympic flame.

The design was conceived by Pininfarina SpA, best known for its Ferrari SpA sports-car designs.

It is 57 metres high, and cost $2.1M.

The flame will be lit at today's opening ceremony, which will be attended by the U.S. First Lady Laura Bush and Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

The opening pageant, whose theme is "Passion, Dynamism and Italianism", will involve 6,100 costumes and more than 100 kilometres of electric cables.

The event will be staged around a traditional Italian piazza.

The opening ceremony is expected to be sold out, and attended by 35,000 people. However, 265,000 tickets still are unsold out of the 1 million available.


As the Winter Olympics kicks off in Turin later today, news was released that some athletes have tested positive for doping offences.

So much for the concept of competing for competing's sake!

Giovanni Zotta, the Italian representative on the International Olympic Committee's anti-doping commission, said that preliminary tests had found the banned substance Erythropoietin (EPO) in several athletes.


"So far there have been cases of EPO haematocrit in several athletes but it must be confirmed."

The International Ski Federation (FIS) had banned eight Nordic skiers for five days, after tests showed they had an abnormally high red blood cell count (a possible indication of EPO use).

Zotta added:

"This morning we will be checking (the cases). Shortly we will be having a meeting on the results."

This incident is particularly galling for the IOC, as it had only recently convinced/strongarmed the Italian government to relax its strict anti drugs laws. Under the normal laws, applied to non Olympiads, people found to have been taking drugs (even sports enhancing drugs) are liable to a prison sentence.

Needless to say, the IOC couldn't face the loss of sponsorship revenues that prison sentences on its athletes would have brought, so it dragooned the Italian government into relaxing the law for Olympic athletes.

Dick Pound, the head of the World Anti-doping Agency, said:

"The (Torino) Games are not an Italian event. They are an international one. But I think it will work out."

In other words, Olympic athletes are above the law!

This two faced approach to drugs sends out the wrong message; Kate Moss was vilified recently for alleged cocaine use, yet the IOC seem to be saying that drugs (if used to win a competition) are OK.

That is wrong!

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Turin's Security Concerns

As with any large scale international event, it is an unfortunate fact of life that security threats and how to deal with them take priority.

The Turin Winter Olympics, which start tomorrow, are no exception to that rule. As ever, various protest groups are seeking to maximise their exposure to the world's media by staging annoying and dangerous demonstrations during the Games.

The anti-globalisation demonstrators kicked off on Sunday, by disrupting the Olympic flame enroute to the start of the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Anarchists have threatened to hold street protests in Turin to coincide with the visit of Laura Bush, who is scheduled to arrive Friday under tight security.

Now, the Games are under threat from the ongoing wave of protest over the newspaper cartoons that were first published in Denmark in September 2005.

Mario Pescante, Italy's ranking IOC member, said that the government has added two countries' delegations for special protection as a reaction to the escalating controversy over the cartoons.

It is assumed that he was referring to Denmark and Norway.

Jim Scherr, chief of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said:

"I don't think there will be disruption of the Games because of this, but you never know, so it is something we monitor very carefully."

Turin has a large Muslim population in Turin, and security officials convened in Rome this week to plan what to do in the event of protests.

Local Muslim leaders have asked their members not to disrupt the Games, or target the Danish.

To ensure safety, the Italian government has ordered a no-fly zone over Turin for Friday night's opening ceremony. Flights also will be prohibited from departing or arriving at Turin's airport throughout the ceremony.

Pescante said that security forces are prepared for the Olympics:

"In Italy we had 3 million visitors and over 100 heads of state (funeral of John Paul II). We are trained."

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Winter Blues

There seem to be a number of glitches in the preparations for the forthcoming Winter Olympics, which start in Turin this Friday.

Transport seems to be an issue, last week two British Olympic staff were stuck in traffic for five hours between Turin and the mountain venue of Sestriere because of heavy snowfall and an accident on the road.

Organising committee chief, Cesare Vaciago, has indeed admitted that the biggest problem involves transportation.

Ensuring that Italian drivers respect the lanes reserved for Olympic vehicles and making sure bus drivers know their way around, will be a major headache.

Over 2,000 bus drivers have been drafted in from all around Italy, and many are not familiar with the local roads.

It also seems that there are issues with regard to the number of spectators, specifically there are not enough; 700,000 tickets, 85% of the available volume, have been sold. Therefore organisers have arranged to bus in coach loads of Italian schoolchildren, to boost crowds during the Games.

The Olympic torch relay has also encountered problems, it has been subject to various protests along the route.

On Sunday, it had to be diverted in a northern valley to avoid demonstrations opposed to a high-speed rail link.

Given the recent outbreak of flag burning, and threats to Europeans, by Muslim fanatics security is also an issue.

Special security measures, including the deployment of 15,000 police and military personnel, are in place to protect the Games as a whole. A meeting of law enforcement agencies was convened on Monday to discuss security concerns.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Olympic Truce?

Jan Eliasson, the president of the UN General Assembly has asked that all countries attempt to live by the ancient Greek tradition of a two-week period of peace during the forthcoming Winter Olympics, which begin in Turin this Friday.

Eliasson issued a statement calling for "measures to ensure a peaceful global environment for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games."

In January the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, urged all warring factions to lay down their arms during the Games, saying that the Olympics offer a long enough period "for the protagonists and people who are destroying their own countries and killing each other to pause for a moment, look around them and see what damage they are doing."

Given the current situation in the Middle East, I don't see much hope of that.

Monday, February 6, 2006

Fiat's Sponsorship deal

Fiat SpA is hoping that its massive $48M sponsorship deal for the forthcoming Winter Olympics in Turin will give its lackluster image a boost.

Fiat is one of the main national sponsors at the Games, along with Telecom Italia. There are also "Worldwide Partners" including; Visa International, Coca Cola and McDonald, sponsoring an entire Olympic cycle of one Summer and one Winter Games.

Fiat's Olympic sponsorship consists largely of supplying cars (approximately 3,000)to the Olympic athletes, journalists and reporters.

Friday, February 3, 2006

Olympic Phone Tapping Revealed

It seems that the 2004 Olympic Games, which were held in Athens, were not as harmonious as the organisers would have you believe.

It has been revealed that persons unknown were tapping the phone lines of the Greek Prime Minister, and others, during the course of the games and beyond.

The mobile phones of Greek prime minister, Costas Caramanlis, and other top government and security officials were tapped by unknown individuals during the Athens 2004 Olympics and for nearly a year after.

Government spokesman, Theodoros Roussopoulos, said:

"The people [under surveillance] included the prime minister himself and other members of the government."

In fact around 100 people were tapped, including the ministers of foreign affairs, defence, public order and justice. Most of Greece's top military and police officers were also targeted, as were foreign ministry officials, a US embassy number and the prime minister's wife, Natasha.

Mr Roussopoulos, backed by public order minister Giorgos Voulgarakis and justice minister Anastassis Papaligouras, claimed that it had not been possible to identify who was behind the surveillance.


"It was an unknown individual, or individuals, who used high technology."

However, rather intriguingly, the phone tappers used interceptors traced to the vicinity of the US embassy.

Greece was watched by western anti-terrorist experts, as it prepared to host the Olympics. Washington had been vocal in its demands for Athens to tighten security ahead of the Olympic games.

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

The Giant Olympic Sponge

Much like a giant sponge, the London Olympics 2012 is expected to drain worthwhile projects and charities of much needed funding; as companies tip all their resources into the Olympic bucket.

Charities and sports and cultural events throughout Britain, are prepared to lose out as the cash call by London's Olympics committee for £750M drains them of their normal sources of income.

The question is whether the vast sums of money that companies spend on Olympic advertising, which ends up financing the IOC, is really earning them any additional revenue.