Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Goodbye Torino!

The Games have come to an end. Athletes, spectators and journalists have left Torino. Some are disappointed, but most I think are happy about their Olympic experience. Now we are all looking forward to Beijing and Vancouver. I hope to be there, and I hope to meet some of you there! I say goodbye with this photo of Neve at the biathlon venue, waving goodbye to all of us.


This ever smiling Trenitalia-guide at the Lingotto Station is a good representative of all the volunteers and guides that made our stay in Torino a (mostly) pleasant experience. On our last evening in Torino she wanted to trade a pin with me, and I traded a pin for a smile and a photo ...

Egyptian Museum

Torino has other things than Olympic Games worth seeing. Jeroen and I visited the famous Egyptian Museum during one of our days in Torino. It was a musem well worth visiting, even though most of the items on display should have been in Egypt - not in Torino.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Goodbye, Oval Lingotto?

Tonight the last speed skating event of these Games was held, and Oval Lingotto has probably been used as a speed skating venue for the last time. The structure will be used for fairs and exhibitions, but according to the Official Torino 2006 website the possibility to use the ice rink will be maintained, so we can only hope that speed skating events may be hosted at this venue in the future!

At least we can say that "Passion lived here" for two glorious weeks in February 2006!

Clara Hughes - from cycling to speed skating

In the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta Clara Hughes won two bronze medals in cycling (road race and time trial). In 2000 she took up speed skating. She qualified for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and won a surprising bronze medal on the 5000 m, becoming the second speed skater wo win medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Tonight the she dethroned german Claudia Pechstein from the Olympic 5000 m podium. Pechstein has won three consecutive titles, but head-to-head to Hughes she lost her fourth title by 1.01 second.

This photo is taken after the Team Pursuit event, where Hughes skated on the Canadian team that lost the final to Germany. Tonight Hughes got her revenge!

Korea again ...

Korea won their 5th and 6th short track gold medals tonight. Two of the team members on the men's relay team - Hyun-Soo Ahn (to the left) and Ho-Suk Lee - won gold and silver on the men's 1500 m the evening we were at the Palavela. Ahn also won the 1000 m and a bronze on the 500 m, and he added a third gold medal to his collection when he outsprinted Canada on the last lap of the relay tonight.

Absolute Sweden

These Olympic Winter Games have been the best Winter Games ever for Sweden. Today Anna Carin Olofsson became the first Olympic Champion in Women's 12.5 km Mass Start biathlon event, and won Sweden's sixth gold in these Games.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Two worthy Olympic champions today

The Norwegian failures continue. We were hoping for medals in the womens 30 km cross-country skiing and in the mens 10000 m speed skating today. But we ended up with 4th places again ...

In the absence of Norwegian success, it was nice to see two worthy and deserved Olympic champions in these events. 33 year old Katerina Neumannova, five times Olympic medallist, won her first Olympic title in the 30 km mass start today. 29 years old Bob de Jong, who got a silver in Nagano 8 years ago, but failed miserably in Salt Lake City 4 years later, won the 10000 m.

The first photo shows Katerina Neumannova (to the right) in the sprint with Kristina Smigun in the pursuit event the first Sunday of the Games. Neumannova lost the sprint to Kristina Smigun, and won her fourth Olympic silver medal.

Bob de Jong on his way to a 6th place on the 5000 m.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

From expectations to explanations

The Norwegian team disappointed again on todays 4 x 6 km biathlon relay, and once again team members of a Norwegian relay team had to do a lot of explanations to the media. This has become a common habbit the last week, as all our relay teams has disappointed, all of them being among the favorites and only placing 5th.

On the 15 km we had seats just behind the mixed zone, where TV and other media can interview the athletes, so we could easily see who was being interviewed. On this picture Liv-Grete Poiree is explaining her misses to Dag Erik Pedersen, NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting).

Perfect shooting

The Russian womens biathlon team did an almost flawless 4 x 6 km relay today. With only 2 misses in their 40 shots for the Russians, their victory was never threatened. Germany finished 2nd, 50 seconds behind.

This photo shows Svetlana Ishmouratova on her way to an individual gold on the 15 km last week. Today she won her second gold in these Olympic Games.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Chaotic relays

The most amazing thing with short track speed skating is the relays. It seems so chaotic, which these photos may give an impression of, but still the skaters seem to have some kind of control and most of the exchanges seem to go without problems. How they manage I will never know ...

We got to see the womens relay semifinals on our second evening in Torino. The finals were skated tonight, and - of course - the Koreans won again. They have won 4 golds in these Games, all of them in short track speed skating.

Canada strikes again!

This has been Canada's day in Torino. Chandra Crawford won the womens cross-country sprint in Pragelato. At Oval Lingotto in Torino Cindy Klassen and Kristina Groves won gold and silver on the 1500 m. For the former ice hockey player, field lacrosse player and inline speed skater, this was her first Olympic gold medal, and her fourth medal in these Olympic Games (silver on 1000 m and Team Pursuit, bronze on 3000 m).

This image was taken at the Team Pursuit event last week and shows both the Canadian medal winners skating together (Klassen to the left, Groves to the right) on the Canadian team.

New gold for Sweden

Sweden had not won a gold medal in Olympic Winter Games since 1994. So far in these Games they have won 3 gold medals, all of them in the sprint events in cross-country skiing. Björn Lind was on the winning team in the mens team sprint, and today he won the individual sprint ahead of the French surprise - Roddy Darragon.

This picture I took during the mens team sprint. Lind is chasing Norwegian Tor Arne Hetland and Russian Vassilij Rotchev on the finishing straight. When they crossed the finishing line, Lind was ahead of both.

Canadian surprise!

The Norwegian cross-country skiers disappointed again during todays sprint event. Marit Bjørgen is totally out of shape, and the Norwegian men failed one by one, and no Norwegians in any of the finals.

But the Canadian women have peaked during these Olympics. Beckie Scott and Sara Renner won a silver medal in the team sprint (see image below), and today we had two Canadians in the womens final. Beckie Scott placed 4th, and we got a surprise winner - 22 year old Chandra Crawford from Canmore.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

King of Nordic Combined

Felix Gottwald, the Austrian nordic combined athlete, won three bronze medals in Salt Lake City 2002. In Torino he won silver in the opening Gundersen event before winning gold in the team event together with his team mates. Today he crossed the finishing line as Olympic Champion in the nordic combined sprint event.

This picture is from the ski jumping part of the team event. The event was canceled and rescheduled after the first round of the ski jumping competition, so we never got to see the Austrian team winning this event.

Fabris - my man!

Enrico Fabris, winner of todays 1500 m, is my man! I really hoped he would beat both Davis and Hedrick today.

They are both great athletes, and I watched them and cheered them both when they won last years World Allround Championships, but the ongoing arguments and discussions the last week have proved that they are both selfish athletes with only two thoughts on their mind: Me and I. At least Shani Davis showed he was happy about winning silver, and congratulating Fabris with his title. The way Hedrick showed he was not happy about his 6th place on the 1000 m and a bronze on the 1500 m - well that's the kind of expressions I hate to see in sports events at this level.

That's why I like Enrico Fabris. He is more modest. He cheered for his 5000 m bronze medal like he had won the gold, and he would probably have been happy about one bronze medal when the Games ended, even without the two gold medals he has earned himself afterwards.

The picture is taken after Italy won the Team Pursuit.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Right To Play

On my last day in Torino I visited the Right To Play exhibition in Torino, and I will just take this opportunity to ask everybody reading this blog to support their work: http://www.righttoplay.com/

Italian team success

Today the Italian team won the mens cross-country skiing relay, just like they did at Lillehammer 12 years ago. Thursday the Italian team also won the speed skating team event - the first ever Olympic team pursuit in speed skating. One by one they eliminated the other favorites - USA in the quarters, the Netherlands in the semis and finally Canada in the final. I don't think I ever saw happier guys on a speed skating rink.

Happy Italian speed skaters: Stefano Donagrandi (did not skate the final), Matteo Anesi, Enrico Fabresi and Ippolito Sanfratello.

The Olympic Flame

Our best opportunity to see the Olympic Flame would be on our way to the hockey game the last evening of our stay in Torino. But on our way from Oval Lingotto to Palasport Olimpico we were so busy setting a new Olympic Record in venue-to-venue racing, we didn't even see it! And when we got out of the venue we were quite puzzled ... How could we have missed this on our way in??

Cheering for Dutchmen and Norwegians

Sunday I wore my Dutch cap to support the Dutch shorttrackers in the evening.


I had several disappointments during my days in Torino, but the biggest disappointment I got when I realized the Norwegian team would not take part in the nordic combined team event. Jeroen took this picture while I was putting away my Norwegian flag.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Germany the first winners of the Team Pursuit

The new Team Pursuits has been much debated among speed skating fans. Being present at the day of the finals, I must say it was a quite fun event to watch. The German women (Daniela Anschütz-Thoms, Anni Friesinger and Claudia Pechstein) won the first Olympic gold awarded to a speed skating team.

A well deserved beer

After the discussions with security about bringing the mug into the venue, Jeroen had a well deserved beer!

Ridiculous security

Security has not been a big issue, but there has been some annoyances :-)

The first days we waited about 20 minutes to get into the speed skating and the cross-country venues, but since then it has gone a lot smoother. The biggest annoyance has been that the rules are practiced very differently at the different venues, and the luggage check has been quite different from venue to venue. Which means you never know what to expect, and you never know if you can actually bring "illegal" items, like food, water, bottle-caps and coins, into the venues :-)

Some of the security rules are a laugh as well. You are not allowed to bring coins into the venue - for security reasons. But they still give coins as change when you buy something at the merchandise store or the snack points. Not to mention those who sell the daily Olympic Program (which is actually a special version of the Gazetta del la Sport) for 1 dollar. They would have a problem if people were not allowed to bring coins.

But the most ridiculous thing happened on our last day in Torino. We spent most of the day in Torino before going to speed skating and ice hockey. We visited one of the Olympic Stores to buy some souvenirs, and Jeroen bought a mug, among other things. When our luggage was checked at the Oval Lingotto he was not allowed to bring this mug into the venue ...

The ridiculous part was the fact that the Merchandise Store inside the venue sold the same kind of mugs! When Jeroen went back to the security check to point this out, they didn't believe him. After checking it out for themselves, they decided to remove the mugs from the Merchandise Store!

Luckily, the mug was still in the box for disallowed items when we left the venue.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Many thanks to Franco and Manuela!

One week has gone and I am sitting at the airport, on my way back home. Jeroen had an earlier flight than me, so I have spent most of the day walking around in Torino. I will not be home until midnight.

I will take this opportunity to say many thanks to Franco and Manuela, our hosts during our stay at their home in Frossasco outside of Pinerolo. They made a great effort to make our stay for the Olympic Games as comfortable as possible.

It has been a very exciting week, although neither me nor Jeroen got to experience any golds for our countries. Jeroen still had his hopes up when we arrived at the Oval Lingotto for the team pursuits yesterday, but when Sven Kramer fell all hope was lost.

I still think the Italians would have beat the Dutch team in the semifinal, but we will never know of course. Anyway, even though Norway lost the bronze final to the Netherlands, it was a great experience to witness the first Italian speed skating gold medal ever - on their home ground!

I will keep posting pictures and stories from the Olympics after I get back home, so keep checking back!

The volunteers

The volunteers are always smiling and helpful, but sometimes I wonder if there are too many of them, and if all of them actually are doing something useful. But you always feel welcome when they stand inside the venue, welcoming all with a nice "bon giorno!" and also a "ciao!" or "arrivederci!" when we leave. Most of them speak English, but not all of them, and I was very surprised when I met two volunteers who spoke Norwegian at the biathlon event.

Transportation in Torino

Except from the fact that no buses operated Frossasco on Sundays, so we had to walk to Pinerolo this morning, we have not had much trouble with transportation. In fact, it has been surprisingly well organised. Some of the bus drivers doesn't really know where to go(!), but as they are coming to Torino for the Olympic Games from all over Italy, they should be excused.

Taxi drivers tend not to understand English, and we have not met a single one that knows the address of our accomodation, but except from that - at least we now know how to find a taxi in Pinerolo.

The trains from Torino Lingotto to Pinerolo (and back) are surprisingly on schedule, and once you learn how the Lingotto station works, it is easy to find your way.

Monday we had a very smooth travel Frossasco - Pinerolo - Torino Lingotto - Torino Porto Nuova - Oulx - Cesana San Sicario, and back the same way in the afternoon. Despite all the changes from bus to train, train to train etc. we did not have to wait much.

Colorful clothes and hats

A lot of the spectators take great pride in dressing up in the most colorful and strange clothes and - especially - hats, to support their athletes - or just to show off :-) Especially the Dutch speed skating fans are reknown for this. This picture shows a small selection of hats at the speed skating venue.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Finally a blog-update!

After several long days - and no Internet-connections available, today we are having some spare time before the speed skating team pursuits this afternoon, and we also managed to find an Internet cafe in Torino. To all of you who have been waiting for a blog-update: Thank you for your patience!

Jeroen and Bjarte


.. was a more relaxed atmosphere than the other events we have been to. Jeroen found this sport more interesting when Bjarte explained about the rules and some of the tactics.

We didn't get to see the Norwegian team. They were one of two teams not playing tonight. But we got to the curling venue just in time for the opening ceremony, so we got to see the Norwegian team members, as well as Pål Trulsen brushing when the first stone was played - to open the curling tournament.


After the cross-country events we went back to Pinerolo and took a train to Torino to watch shorttrack. As sworn speed skating fans we think of shorttrack mostly as a joke, where one can win without being the best (ref. Steven Bradbury, 2002) and where disqualifications play just as big a role as the actual performance (ref. Apolo Ohno, 2002).So we mainly went to the shorttrack event to see some spectacular falls and rough skating. We would become very disappointed! The technique of the shorttracers is very good, and it was very interesting to see the tactics and the nice moves by the best skaters. However, we did get to see a couple of falls, we got to see Apolo Ohno disappoint all his fans by not qualifying for the final, and we got to see a Korean gold medallist.

The russians could celebrate!

Russian Mikhail Ivanov won the last cross-country gold medal in Salt Lake City 2002. For the first event in Torino 2006 the Russians were not among the hottest favorites, but when the swede Anders Södergren and the Italians made their attack in the last climb, Yevgeni Dementiev was following in fourth position over the top. Dementiev has proved to have a great sprint at several occasions, and when the pack entered the finishing stretch noone could beat Dementiev, and the Russian crowd could cheer for their first gold medal of the Torino games.

Kristin Størmer Steira

When Marit Bjørgen had problems with her stomack and had to abandon the pursuit event, Kristin Størmer Steira proved to be the strongest Norwegian participant. She stayed in the leading group of four skiers until the last climb, but she could not follow Kristina Smigun when she attacked in the last climb. Also Neumannova and Medvedeva-Abruzova proved to be too strong, and she had to settle with a 4th position. We were disappointed that Norway didn't get a medal, but still the mens event was to come.

Skatelist members meet

After the races we met our fellow skatelist-member, Kjell Pettersen (to the right, Jeroen to the left), and his travel companions. We had a meal together, told speed skating stories, and had a quite a few good laughs.

On our way back to Pinerolo I finally had time to call home. It was then I found out Norway had won two silver and two bronze medals today, and that I had attended the only event in which Norway did not take any medals at all today ...

A bad day for Norwegian speed skating

There is no need to tell how disappointed Norwegian speed skating fans were at Oval Lingotto today. What seemed like strong races by Sætre and Grødum became mediocre when Kramer and Verheijen had finished. Chad was just as impressive as both Jeroen and I had faired. And when Eskil Ervik started getting further and further behind Fabris we knew he was out of it. With two laps to go, Jeroen said Fabris might still have a chance to beat Verheijen, and with an impressive last lap Verheijen lost his medal, and Fabris won Italy's first ever Olympic speed skating medal (see the picture).

Nice treatment in Pinerolo

After 13 and a half hours travel I finally arrived in Frossasco, just outside of Pinerolo, at seven o'clock Friday night. I was picked up by my hosts, Franco and Manuela, at Piscina station, and they invited me to see the opening ceremony with them on their large TV. And I was very well treated. They served me pizza, cheese, fruit, italian beer and sicilian almond wine. I was exhausted from the a long day of traveling, so I went to bed shortly after the opening ceremony, a little bit worried if Jeroen was going to find his way.

No need to worry. Shortly after midnight me cellphone rang. In my dreams I thought it was the alarm, and before I really understood what was happening I had rejected the call. Almost one and a half hour later I was awoken again. A kind of strange sound and the dog barking in the garden told me that someone probably was at the door. I opened the front door, but noone was there. That strange sound came back, and I realised the gate was closed, and there was probably some kind of phone to answer calls at the gate, but where was it? I heard the sound again, and now I found it.

Five minutes later Jeroen was on his way to bed. He had been taking a cab from the airport, but the driver only spoke Italian, he had problems reading the address on the voucher Jeroen showed him, and even when he finally learned the address, he had big problems finding it. Welcome to Italy!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Where are we staying?

Pinerolo is located halfway between Torino and the mountain venues, so it is a perfect place to stay when we have tickets for events in Torino and events in the mountains. At least that's the idea. Pinerolo is also the site for the curling tournaments.

Pinerolo is shown on the map above, with a red circle around. IOC and TOROC will probably sue me for making a copy of this map, but who cares ...

Torino next

My plane leaves in 7 hours, and I am just about finished packing. Jeroens flight schedule allows for a more relaxed start of the day. We will meet Friday night in Pinerolo.

This is the schedule for our week in Torino:

11/2 Speed skating, 5000 m
12/2 Cross country skiing, pursuits
12/2 Short track
13/2 Biathlon, 15 km women
13/2 Curling
14/2 Cross country skiing, team sprints
15/2 Nordic Combined, team
16/2 Speed skating, team pursuit
16/2 Ice hockey

The picture is taken in Moscow last year and shows two of the favorites for the 5000 m - Chad Hedrick and Eskil Ervik.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Lillehammer memories, continued

Sunday morning arrived, the weather in Lillehammer was still extremely nice, and in a few hours Johann Olav Koss would try to win his third Olympic gold medal at Hamar. I had tried to get tickets, but they were impossible to get hold of. But I had heard rumours that they had put up a large tent, with a large TV-screen, just outside Vikingskipet. Well, being at Hamar watching Koss on a large TV-screen together with hundreds of Norwegians, was the best alternative when I couldn't get tickets, so I bought myself a train ticket and went to Hamar.

The atmosphere in the tent was great, and when Koss started his race against Frank Dittrich in the 5th pair I could not imagine any better place to be. The roars from the audience rivaled those from the venue just across the street. For each lap the race became more and more magnificent. Could he actually do 13.30? The newspapers had been talking about a "magical" time - 13.32.6 - 3 minutes faster than Hjalmar "Hjallis" Andersen did at Hamar one week before the Olympic Games 42 years ago.

We all know what happened. Some of you who read might even have been there. Koss did 13.30.55 and lowered his own World Record by 12.99 seconds. 3 pairs later his apprentice, Kjell Storelid, did 13.49.25 to secure a Norwegian double. It was a great day at Hamar, even without tickets ...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Memories from Lillehammer

My only live Olympic Experience is the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer. I stayed in Lillehammer/Hamar/Oslo for 4 days and had a great time.

I arrived in Oslo, by the night train from Stavanger, early morning Friday, February 18th, and took the morning train to Lillehammer. Coming to Lillehammer was a dream come true - 18 years after I watched my first Olympic Games on TV. And the atmosphere in Lillehammer was remarkable. From this Friday I remember hearing on the radio that Dan Jansen finally won the Olympic gold he deserved. And I remember being at the Olympic Stamps Fair when I watched the Norwegian favorite, Fred Børre Lundberg, win the ski jumping part of the Nordic Combined, getting himself an excellent position for the cross-country skiing the following day. (Yes, this was back in the days when the athletes needed a days rest between the two events ..) In the evening we went to a blues concert with my local hero - Reidar Larsen.

Olympic tickets were hard to get in Lillehammer. I think the whole of Norway wanted to go there, and there just wasn't tickets for everybody. I had applied for tickets for several speed skating events, and I ended up with four tickets for the womens 1500 m, scheduled for Monday, February 21st.

I still had a weekend to spend at Lillehammer, and Saturday it was possible to watch the nordic combined and the mens 15 km cross country skiing events without having a ticket. It was free to stand along the course, outside of the stadium, IF you could find a place to stay :-) I was too late for the nordic combined. I arrived just in time to hear the roar from the stadium when Fred Børre Lundberg crossed the finishing line to win the gold. One hour later we were ready for the 15 km pursuit event. Bjørn Dæhlie was in the lead, but russian Vladimir Smirnov seemed strong. Could Dæhlie make it, and win his 5th Olympic gold? Most of you probably know that Dæhlie did in fact win. He continued to win 3 more Olympic gold medals in Nagano four years laters, and he retired as the most successful winter Olympian ever!

At the time we didn't know that of course, but in the evening we could all celebrate two Norwegian gold medallists at the medal ceremony in Lillehammer. It had been a very long and exciting day.

I will continue my Olympic memories tomorrow. The picture shows (from left to right) my aunt, my brother and my mother (who all got Olympic tickets for Christmas two months earlier) on their way from Vikingskipet after the womens 1500 m.

Welcome to my Olympic blog

I am leaving for Torino for the Winter Olympics on Friday. To share some pictures and moments, I hope to be able to do some blogging from Torino.

In the meantime I will share some other Olympic memories, and may be some speed skating memories.

For all my english-speaking friends on the skatelist, this blog will be in English :-)

So check back from time to time. And don't hesitate to write comments. They are always welcome.

Have a nice Olympic Experience!

Regards, Bjarte