Monday, March 06, 2006

in the Paralympic Village

OK, I'm in Sestriere now, getting ready for the Paralympics. We moved into the Athlete Village here two days ago, and I took a few runs this afternoon on our race hill. It's looking sweet. All our races are on the men's Olympic downhill & super G run, if you happened to see that on TV. It's long and rolly, with some steep pitches, flats, and small jumps. It's going to make for a fantastic Paralympic downhill, I think, and the weather and snow right now are totally ideal — sunny and minus 5 to 10 Celsius, with firm but grippable snow.

There's so much to write about, so I guess I'll take it in chunks. For now I guess I'll try and describe the Paralympic Village experience. This year I think all the teams are staying in the Villages, the official housing provided free to athletes, coaches and staff. The hockey players and the curling team stay down in the Torino village, while the alpine and nordic skiers and biathletes stay up here in Sestriere. There are five residential buildings here, most of which were built for the Games. If you saw the three cylindrical towers on TV during the Olympics, those are part of the village, although the U.S. team isn't staying in them. We're in a low building almost immediately adjacent to the ski hill. It's great, you don't even need to get in a car to get to the race course. (The nordic skiers have a 20-minute drive to Pragelato each day.)

Inside the Village, there are all kind of amenities you might find in any neighborhood: general store, café, florist, dry cleaner, souvenir shop, Internet lounge, hair stylist, etc. Of course there's also a huge 24-hour dining hall with some good food and some really awful. Strangely (this being Italy and all), the pizza there is truly terrible. At least they have tomatoes and fresh mozzarella at every meal, along with plenty of olive oil and balsamic vinegar of course. They also have surprisingly passable egg rolls.

Anytime you want to re-enter the Village, or go in the dining hall, or do just about anything else, you have to show your credential. This is basically your proof that you are an athlete and you are who you say you are. It's a bad thing to lose, because then you basically don't exist.

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