Turin relieved after Games - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Turin relieved after Games

By Rachel Sanderson 28/02/2006 05:54:38 AM Comments (0)

They feared another Genoa. What they got was dolce vita.

Security officials before the Turin Winter Olympics said their nightmare would be a repeat of the anti-globalisation riots at a meeting of leaders of G8 industrialised nations in Genoa in 2001 where one protester died in a battle with armed police.

They need not have worried.

Demonstrations about a high-speed rail link being built near Turin that marred the passage of the Olympic flame were extinguished by the start of the Games.

Even athletes who were the focus of international security concerns, such as the Danes following the Muslim cartoon furore, said they felt calm and protected.

"We've felt totally fine, totally safe," said Danish curler Maria Poulsen, whose team was accompanied by minders after cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in a Danish newspaper triggered violent protests across the Muslim world.

Italy's security preparations for the Turin Games took up where the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics left off, staging the land and air lockdown expected since the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre.

As in Athens, the first Summer Games after September 11, an AWAC surveillance plane patrolled the skies above the opening and closing ceremonies, snipers perched atop roofs and thousands of police checked bags and passes at every Olympic site entrance.

Interior ministry officials met anti-globalisation and environmental protesters and security chiefs said Turin's Muslim community, estimated at about 10,000, had been monitored.

A Moroccan-born imam was expelled from Italy in September on the grounds that his hard-line views represented a danger to public security.

Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu always said there was no specific threat against the Games but, as in Athens, when the closing ceremony fireworks scattered across the night sky officials breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The calm jarred momentarily, though, at the ceremony when a protester interrupted a speech by the president of Turin's organising committee, shouting into the microphone "Passion lives here" - the Olympic slogan. Police swiftly seized the man and escorted him away.

He appeared to be a harmless Spaniard, but served as a reminder that a determined protester can slip through the net.

"Security worked extremely well," International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said.

So well, in fact, that some of the 9,000 armed police were left with time on their hands.

One of the most commented on sights of the Games was groups of carabinieri police, idle at security check points, fiddling with their mobile phones, trying on each others sunglasses and calling out "ciao, bella" to women walking by.

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