Ahead of his fifth Olympic Winter Games, Turin 2006, bobsleigh pilot Bruno Mingeon was named the flagbearer for France at the Opening Ceremony, setting in motion what turned out to be a rollercoaster of emotions.
The XX Olympic Winter Games were awarded to Turin on 19 June 1999. It was only the second time that Italy had been chosen as host country, after Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956. Turin itself played host to most of the ice sport events while the snow sports took place higher up in the Alps; while bobsleigh, luge and skeleton competitions were staged in the mountain resort of Cesana Pariol.
Special memoriesOn 18 January 2006, Mingeon was named flagbearer for the French Olympic team. It was an enormous honour for the veteran, who had plenty of special memories from previous opening ceremonies There was Albertville 1992: “Nobody will forget Philippe Découflé’s show – beautiful and incredibly emotional.”
Then there was Lillehammer 1994. “Cold! That’s what I remember most! A magnificent Opening Ceremony held at -30° and everyone so cold they ran off as soon as it finished!”
Of his selection as flagbearer for Turin, Mingeon said: “A wave of emotion came over me when the choice was announced. I thought about my career, what I’ve achieved, the people who’ve supported me, my team-mates past and present.”
He also revealed that he received a surprise pep-talk from fellow Olympian Jean-François Lamour, by then a government minister, who had carried the French flag at Barcelona 1992: “He told me that [being the flagbearer] had pushed him to work even harder for the medal and I believe it! I am very strong mentally. I hope this announcement will give us a boost and drive us to shave off a few extra centimetres at the start.”
The Opening Ceremony for Turin 2006 took place on 10 February 2006, and featured performances from Italian stars Carla Bruni, Sophia Loren and Luciano Pavarotti as well as international artists such as Peter Gabriel, who performed a special version of John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’.
In front of an estimated audience of two billion worldwide, a Formula 1 car emblazoned with the Olympic rings then made a spectacular entrance into the stadium, before the Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi declared the Games open. As the Ceremony came to a climax, Stefania Belmondo, the legendary cross-country skier and 10-time Olympic medallist, lit the Olympic flame.
The best reward“While waiting for the big event, I relaxed for a while as I had to respond to a lot of requests beforehand,” said Mingeon. “I slept for a while. I wanted to be on good form for the trip around the stadium! I was briefed before going into the stadium and all I needed to do was follow the woman in front of us holding up the ‘France’ sign.
“I thought I would feel a rush of emotion entering the stadium with the flag in hand, but it went so quickly! I barely had time to look around at what was going on.
“It was actually just before going into the stadium that I felt overwhelmed with emotion. I thought about my career and everything I’d been through. My family phoned me then as well. It was all so great. It was a unique moment that I tried to enjoy and live in the moment.”
As for the competitions in Turin, Mingeon and Galbert placed 21st in the two-man bob and 19th in the four-man. “The biggest satisfaction for me in Turin, my ‘gold medal’ moment, was to be chosen as the flagbearer for France. It was great to see everything that came with it, the positive reporting and focus on my sport. It was the biggest reward both for myself and for French bobsleigh.”