For the last few months, the athletes have been practicing hard, preparing for the Olympics. In Briançon, France, 10 km from the Italian border, and closer to some of the sites than Torino, the local patinoire (skating rink) was transformed into a practice rink for the French Olympic figure skating team. Locals brought their kids to watch the Olympians prepare for the big competition. Some of the pairs, like Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, from the French Olympic Skating Team, even signed photos for the spectators who had come to watch their practice sessions. The athletes are ready for the Olympics, but are the Olympics ready for them?
A huge cloud of disorder has raged for the months preceding the Olympics. A week and a half before the Olympics began, the volunteers went to the Olympic village for orientation. "It was really disorganised. The villages were only about half built and all the computers were still in boxes," one of the volunteers commented. Even days before the opening ceremonies, some volunteers were still awaiting the finishing touches for their uniforms.
The same state of disorder has also been found in the surrounding towns, still working to get ready for the inundation of tourists, who will visit for the games. Briançon, one of the larger towns in the French Alps, will be connected to the Olympic sites by shuttle buses. New hotels have been renovated and put under new management, and although they are operational, they do not appear finished. A tourist from British Columbia, Canada, staying at one of the newly renovated hotels commented, "The manager of the hotel seemed almost as surprised as I was that the hotel was actually opened." But opened they are. Even today, the plaster is barely dry, and they are still moving in carpets, but with the Olympics here, and booking now done over the Internet, they have no problems finding people to stay.
There are free shuttles linking the sites of the Olympic villages and competition sites. There is a TGV (Train de Grand Vitesse or, in English, the really fast train) connecting Oulx, where the ski hill is, to Torino. The TGV travels at speeds of up to 400 km/hour, (250 miles/ hour) and with all of the mountain roads, it cuts down on travel time tremendously when the sites are as much as two to three hours by bus from Torino. But even finding information on the buses on the Internet or in the towns surrounding the Olympics is a little disorganised and difficult without the aid of a travel agent. And even then, I have spoken with tourists who booked through travel agents, who are confused as to how to reach the Olympic sites.
The last concern is the Danish and Norwegian newspapers, which ran the caricatures of the Muslim prophet Mohammad. Every night the French news carries the latest riots and attacks in Europe, which have been carried out because of them. Will they affect the Olympics? Will there be people attacking the Danish and Norwegian athletes in retaliation of a cartoonist, the papers who ran his comic, and the Danish government who would not receive the ambassadors from the Muslim countries or issue an apology?
Everywhere from the flame passing through Briançon, to the Olympic villages, there have been almost as many or more police than spectators or volunteers, so hopefully they can keep anything from spoiling the Olympic spirit.
They still have a few hours left before the opening ceremonies, and with a little more work, there is a chance that the Olympics will be ready to receive their Olympians, as the athletes are ready to perform. Best of luck to all competing and long live the Olympic spirit.<!--[endif]-->