Torino, the first Italian city to host the Olympics since the 1960 Rome games, warmly greeted 2,508 athletes who competed in 84 events in seven sports. The games were kicked off by a magnificent opening ceremony at the reconstructed Stadio Olimpico, which was originally built for the 1934 FIFA World Cup. Italian Olympic hero Stefania Belmondo, a ten-time medalist in cross-country skiing, lit the Olympic torch.
Throughout the games, two athletes dominated the headlines, one for success, the other for failure. Although Apolo Anton Ohno, the American short-track speed skating hero of the 2002 Salt Lake Games, was unable to defend his (controversial) gold in the 1,500 meter, he took bronze in the 1,000 meter and helped lead the U.S. team to another bronze in the 5,000 meter relay when he made a last-leg pass of Italian skater Nicola Rodigari. In the final short track event of the games, Ohno qualified for the final in the 500 meter. After two false starts by other skaters, and nearly false starting himself, Ohno held the lead from start to finish and took his second career gold medal and fifth overall Olympic medal.
On the other side of the coin was a fellow Salt Lake hero, American alpine skier Bode Miller. Many fans had high hopes for Miller, considering the two silver medals he won at the 2002 games and the publicity hype that surrounded him in the months leading up to the Torino Games. Miller did not live up to these high expectations, however. He failed to win any medals and generally seemed apathetic about his performance. Indeed, in an interview with NBC's Tom Brokaw, Miller said that "quality of life is the priority" and that he "got to party and socialize on an Olympic level." This angered fans and members of the media alike, who felt that he was displaying values contradictory to the Olympic spirit
Canadian speed skater Cindy Klassen emerged as the game's most decorated athlete, winning five medals, including gold in the 1,500 meter. Korean short-track speed skaters Jim Sun-Yu and Ahn Hyun Soo, as well as Germany biathlete Michael Gries, each won a games-high three gold medals. Lascelles Brown, competing for Canada, became the first Jamaican-born athlete to win a Winter Olympic medal, taking silver in the 2-man bobsled.
In women's figure skating, Shizuka Arakawa of Japan won the gold when her closest competitors, American Sasha Cohen and Russian Irina Slutskaya, both fell during their routines. A more embarrassing fall was suffered by American Lindsey Jacobellis in the final of women's snowboard cross. Jacobellis had built up a substantial lead over her nearest competitor when an unsuccessful attempt at a trick going over the penultimate jump forced her to settle for silver.
In the team events, Canada won its first gold medal in men's curling and also won gold in women's hockey. In the final event of the games, Sweden defeated Finland, 3-2, on a third period goal from Nicklas Lidstrom to win gold in men's hockey and help erase the memories of a shocking quarterfinal loss to Belarus at the Salt Lake games four years earlier. Sweden also earned the gold in women's curling.
Unlike the Olympic Games of 2002 and 2004, the Torino 2006 games were remarkable for their lack of controversy. While Salt Lake featured a full-scale bidding scandal, and Athens was barely able to finish construction of its venues in time for the start of competition, Torino experienced no such problems. New bidding procedures that barred voters from visiting the competing cities ensured that Torino had earned the right to host the games. The city, the largest to ever host the Winter Olympics, had no trouble constructing several new, world-class venues. The games were once again considered a rousing success, leaving athletes and fans alike to anticipate the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.
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