Flat on the valley floor in a clear space amid the barns and small pensions, huddled by the bulking Dolomites, the hosts have built a snow stadium for the start and finish of cross-country ski events. Grandstands are spread on the meadow, portable restaurants cover the real estate where cows and tourists graze in summer, and just over the neighboring dale is a temporary military village. It is the bivouac for a battalion of 800 Alpini, Italy's celebrated mountain troops. The skiing Alpini will be charged with patrolling the vast cross-country ski course, maintaining route markers, watching for drifts, ice and straying competitors.
ROOM FOR WAX
Elaborate arrangements have been completed to see that leading contenders in the cross country are not placed near each other either in buses coming up from town or in dressing rooms at the snow stadium. The choice and application of wax according to the day's snow condition is so important that strong ski nations—Norway, for instance—will be paired with, say, the Japanese; the Finns perhaps with the Turks, the Swedes with the Argentines.
With all the sporting world turned to the little Italian valley this winter, American fashion arbiters predict a rash of Italian-inspired sportswear. Vanotti's in Cortina is showing pelican coats of heavy blanket wool with leather buttons, green and brown, at $65; leather-edged whipcord trousers at $32, and leather-piped corduroy trousers at $20.50 in two-tone combinations somewhat more daring than similar corduroy-and-leather jackets and suits being shown here. Frostbite insurance against the blue hours in the Olympic grandstands are huge ribbed cardigan sweaters ($40) with patch pockets and gold buttons the size of U.S. quarters. Shoes with fat, notched crepe soles and waterproof suede uppers cost $23, or $28 if you want wool linings.
What with the world about to do itself up in Cortina-styled clothes, workmen straightening the kinks in the road all the way from Rome, with bright petrol stations sprouting on the pastoral corners, telephone lines piling up thick as a tangle of spaghettini in a Neapolitan trattoria, with mammoth stadiums rising in the meadows and trucks forced to bring in provisions at night to avoid the snarl of traffic, this 13th century village feels like the unsuspecting specialist who has just come up with the $64,000 answer.
Labor is at a premium. An American who has a villa here was complaining the other day that he had $400 worth of coal piled up in his yard, but he couldn't hire a man to shovel it into the bin. Although 40 to 50 villas are going up in Cortina every year, the Olympics have set the village ahead by 10 years. Longtime visitors worry lest the valley be spoiled. The Ampezzani watch the tar, the trucks and the travail and are paralyzed at the thought of the money being spent. A square block on a hilltop here once worth 1,400,000 lire now goes for 3 million. And neither lire nor love will buy a square room come January 26. It's just a month until they light the Olympic torch for the first time in the ancient valley of Ampezzo. Meanwhile Cortina is merely burning with a high fever.