We asked the Sports Illustrated writers who covered the Turin Olympics to leave us with their indelible memory of the Games.
I spent the better part of the Games in Sestriere, a ski resort about 55 miles west of -- and one mile above -- Turin. When you think about it, 55 miles isn't very far, a short car ride that, if you have satellite radio or an iPod car adapter, will fly right by. But that one mile of altitude makes all the difference. An easy drive becomes an arduous trek, a succession of switchbacks that adds hours to the journey and makes you feel as if you're going to an entirely foreign place, completely cut off from urban life.
There is a downside to spending 2˝ weeks in such a remote, mountain area, living in a small hotel alongside eight colleagues with whom you eat two meals a day. Cabin fever sets in. Occasionally I'd look at my screen and see that I had written "All work and no play makes Mark a dull boy." I thought I saw the ghost of Scatman Crothers roaming the halls. I'm pretty sure I chased SI writer Kelli Anderson through a topiary maze. You get the picture.
Nonetheless, for me, the best part of the Games was living the Alpine life. There was the breathtaking scenery, of course; my modest porch afforded me a spectacular view of the slalom and giant slalom courses, the floodlights of which occasionally made it hard to sleep. And the rarefied air made it quite easy to catch a buzz off a couple glasses of Barolo. But it was more than that. Being in a small village -- literally, a no-stoplight town -- gave the Games a sleepy feel. Winter Olympics aren't meant to be contested in urban areas. Every event should be held within a stone's throw of a lodge with a toasty fireplace, or at least an edifice with a stuffed beast on the premises. (Our hotel had a stuffed deer and something resembling a jackalope. They gave the place an authentic outdoorsy aura, though I might question the wisdom of displaying them in the dining room -- especially on nights when venison is served.)
Being in Sestriere also put us close to the coolest events, the traditional sports you only see in the Winter Games (luge, bobsled, ski jumping, biathlon, etc.) as well as the cool new ones (snowboarding, freestyle skiing). And even the aforementioned drawback -- being cut off from civilization -- can be kind of nice. There's something to be said for spending a little time in an insular world. You see the same people, you get to know them. (There are roughly three bars in Sestriere. You want to hang with the ski crowd? Go to the Irish Igloo, the home base of the U.S. team. You want to shoot pool? Hit the Cavern. You want to act like a fool? Go to the disco, Tabata.) You identify with each other. For instance, when you see someone emerge from the only coffee shop on the piazza with the shakes, you give them a knowing look: You had two hot chocolates, didn't you? (The hot chocolate at the only coffee shop on the piazza isn't so much hot chocolate as it is warm pudding with enough whipped cream on top to send you into hyperglycemic shock.) Then they return the look, or a palsied version thereof.
When I return to the States, I'm sure people will ask me what I thought of the Turin Games. I'll tell them I honestly don't know. But I'll be sure to tell them what a great time we all had at the Sestriere Games.