Camaraderie overcomes nationalities at Oly village
Posted: Saturday February 11, 2006 1:58PM; Updated: Monday February 13, 2006 2:30AM
IOC President Jacques Rogge, who is living in bloc No. 5, tests a table football game at the Olympic village.
Clive Rose/Getty Images
TURIN, Italy -- There was a twist of geopolitical brotherhood at the Olympic village this week when the U.S. team had its official welcome ceremony in a dual presentation with a team from Iran. The two flags were raised and the anthems played one after the other. The Iranian delegation of four, it should be noted, clapped for the Star Spangled Banner and lined up to shake hands with the women's hockey team. "We are all sportsmen," Iranian alpine skier Saveh Shemshaki said through an interpreter. "We are all brothers."
Kathleen Kauth, a member of the women's hockey team, waved some of the Iranians together with some of her U.S. teammates for a group hug. "This is what the Games are supposed to mean," she said. The idea of international camaraderie was especially poignant for Kauth, whose father Don died in the attacks on the World Trade Center.
The village in the heart of Turin is one of three that will house athletes during the Games. Figure skaters, speedskaters and hockey players are living there, while sledders and skiers live in separate clusters. The village is divided into an International Zone, open to athletes, coaches and accredited visitors, such as press, officials and certain volunteers. The Residential Zone is the athletes' sanctuary where they live for the balance of the Games.
The notable exception is IOC President Jacques Rogge, who is living in bloc No. 5 during the Olympics. Rogge, who competed in three Olympics as a sailor and five more as an official with the Belgian team, impressed athletes with his desire to stay in the village and its dorm-room-style apartment rooms. "For me, the village is the best place to feel the pulse of the Games," he said. "Every day I hear what the athletes are thinking and saying and there is no disconnection that you can feel when you stay in a hotel."
Walking into the entrance of the shopping cluster in the International Zone, athletes pass a series of encased window displays of Olympic medals won in recent Olympics by Italian athletes Manuela di Centa (cross-country skiing), Armin Zoeggeler (luge) and Stefania Belmondo (cross-country skiing), and they can be inspired to imagine the medals that they will win, too.
Next to those displays are a series of torches from previous Olympics and paintings from the local region. The shops include a bookstore, coffee shop, bank, Internet center, tourist office, salon, Olympic museum, laundry room and massage center.