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Torino 2006: transforming the perception of a city

Marco Saracco | Dreamstime.com / Panorama of the Torino city center.
Date
22 Oct 2020
Tags
Torino 2006 Legacy
The Olympic Winter Games Torino 2006 transformed the international perception of Italy’s industrial north and brought new visibility to the leisure and cultural tourist attractions of the region. Its industrial image gave way to touristic charm.

The 2006 Games reached 3.1 billion people – a billion more than the Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake City 2002. Torino 2006 were the first Games to offer live video coverage on mobile phones, live streams online and high-definition (HD) television coverage. At the time, it was the widest and most technically advanced coverage of any Olympic Games.

Ice-based sports were staged in the metropolitan centre of Turin and snow-based sports in nearby mountain regions. A collaborative governance structure was formed, involving the public authorities of the city of Turin and the various mountains villages hosting the Olympic competitions. The perception among the people from the mountains was that there was an imbalance between the city and the mountains, particularly in media representation, which prevented this collaboration from continuing as much as it did during the Games. However, after the Games, this model was replicated to bid for other major events.

Diverse initiatives involving training and voluntary and certification programmes were undertaken in order to generate a spirit of hospitality in the territory.

City perception and tourism appeal

Increasing the city’s leisure and cultural tourism was at the core of Turin’s legacy vision for the Olympic Winter Games 2006. Before the Games, Turin’s identity was labelled “industrial” and mainly associated with the automotive industry, due to the fact that, for more than a century, the city had been the home of the Italian automobile manufacturer Fiat.

During Torino 2006, the city-centre Piazza Castello served as the Medals Plaza and held victory ceremonies. This provided a spectacular backdrop as extensive media coverage cast Turin in a new light. The historic centre of the city was given exposure and was able to show off its art, architecture and culture.

In 2000, and despite Turin’s rich attractions, the Turin province welcomed only three million tourists; the Piedmont region was visited by eight million people. By 2010, the number of tourists visiting Turin had grown to six million, making Turin the fourth-most visited city in Italy after Rome, Florence and Venice. The same year, over 12 million people visited the Piedmont region overall. In 2018, Piedmont was ranked 8th (out of 20 regions) in terms of touristic presence, with over 15 million tourists welcomed that year.

Olympic Truce

In collaboration with UNICEF, the Olympic Truce programme created various initiatives to promote the values of peace, cooperation and justice.

An example was the Solidarity Text Message Project, which raised more than EUR 500,000 to immunise 25,000 children living in countries at war against polio, measles and meningitis. Similarly, the Clearing Sarajevo ’84 Olympic Sites from Landmines project received a contribution of EUR 150,000 to aid the removal of landmines from the Olympic district of the city.

Environment

The Turin Organising Committee (TOROC) was the first OCOG to obtain both an ISO 14001 international environment standard certification and an EMAS certification for its environmental systems and programmes (the European equivalent). This was largely due to the fact that the Organising Committee made good use of EU voluntary environmental tools, in particular the EU eco-management and audit system (EMAS) and the European Ecolabel.

TOROC developed a series of planning tools to implement the measures identified in its Strategic Environment Assessment. As per the Torino 2006 Official Report, each tool addressed an environmental aspect that was considered crucial for the execution of the Olympic Games: water, natural hazard prevention, site safety and landscaping, inert materials (including waste), sustainable transport, etc. TOROC also developed a Green Procurement system.

Sponsors adhering to the TOROC sustainability programme, and which demonstrated that they shared the Organising Committee’s environmental policy vision, were permitted to use the “Ambiente 2006” (“Environment 2006”) logo by TOROC. In 2004, Kyocera Mita Italia was the first company to win this recognition, followed a year later by Iveco, the Italian State Railways, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Kodak and Fiat.

Five accommodation facilities (30 per cent of the total used for the Games) participating in the Ecolabel Programme for Tourist Accommodation Services and promoting sustainable tourism obtained EU Ecolabel certification before the Games began. In 2007, 12 structures in Piedmont bore the Ecolabel seal of quality. The number had reached 16 by 2012.

The HECTOR programme (HEritage Climate TORino), coordinated by TOROC and involving the Piedmont Region and the United Nations Environment Programme, featured initiatives to raise public attention about climate change and to compensate the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that would be produced during the Olympic Games (operations during the 14 days of ceremonies and competitions) in Turin. The organisers calculated that the 2006 Games generated the equivalent of 103,500 tons of carbon dioxide, with the main sources of emissions coming from transport and the operation of the Olympic venues, which were offset.

Economic impact

Hosting the Olympic Winter Games Torino 2006 generated EUR 17.4 billion for the Italian economy. According to a study by Rome University entitled La Sapienza, 60 per cent of this income came in 2005 and 2006. For every million euros invested, 22 full-time jobs were created per year. Employment increased between 2001 and 2004 by an average of 0.2 per cent, and unemployment fell by the same rate.

The construction industry benefitted the most, accounting for more than half the growth in added value and more than 60 per cent of the new jobs during the same period. The commercial public sector and catering industries also enjoyed significant increases in production and jobs, as did services for individuals and businesses.

The expectations in terms of long-term economic benefits of the Games, presented in the Torino 2006 Official Report, were based on the idea that the investments generated over the Games would be much greater than the “costs” of the Games, thanks in particular to the growth of the tourism and events sectors. Turin has become a major destination for business conferences, and the annual economic return of those events is estimated to be between EUR 19 and 32 million.

However, even though the positive impacts of the Games are reported, some studies have criticised the expenditure related to hosting the Games, as well as the venue maintenance and construction costs. While the IOC Coordination Commission Report states that the final budget of the Turin Games was EUR 1.2 billion, some media outlets and academic articles suggested costs were between EUR 2.8 billion and 3.7 billion. These differences are due to the scope of urban and transport projects, which were not directly related to the Games, being included in the calculations.

Education

Twenty-five Olympic education initiatives engaged more than 600,000 schoolchildren before and after the Games. This educational programme included projects associated with the five Olympic rings: red (sport and sports culture), green (sport and the environment), yellow (sport, science and technology), blue (sport and health education) and black (sport, human rights, legality and multiculturalism).

In 2008, the TOP 2006 School Project gave more than 10,000 children the chance to try out sports at various Torino 2006 venues.

In a higher-education initiative, the Olympic Education Programme trained 515 TV production and broadcasting students, 400 of whom worked as volunteers during the Games.

Sports venues

The Palasport Olimpico (now called Pala Alpitour), which was built for Torino 2006 and hosted the Olympic ice hockey tournaments, has become one of Italy’s leading music and entertainment venues. The venue has also held various international sport events such as the 2007 Winter Universiade and the FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship (2018). Pala Alpitour will also host the ATP (Tennis) Finals from 2021 to 2025.

Meanwhile, the Palavela, which staged the Torino 2006 figure skating and short track speed skating events, now includes a conference centre which has hosted approximately 70,000 people per year since 2010, and a public ice rink that serves 30,000 skaters annually. The Palavela has also held major sports events such as the European Men’s Volleyball Championship in 2015.

Another example of a venue’s successful repurposing is the Oval Lingotto. Constructed to stage Olympic speed skating competitions, the venue was Italy’s first indoor rink. It now hosts trade shows, exhibitions, congresses, conventions and cultural and sports events for professionals and the general public.

Twelve out of 14 of Turin’s Olympic competition venues remain open to the public for sport or entertainment. The ski jump venue and the sliding centre remain unused or scarcely used and a section of the Turin Olympic Village has faced repeated challenges over the past 14 years and still has an uncertain future.

After the FIL World Luge Championships in 2011, the sliding centre in Cesana Pariol was closed due to lack of funds and maintenance. It is maintained only in “sleeping mode”. In 2016, a small section of the bobsleigh track, the indoor push track, was re-opened during the summer months for training by teams from France, Great Britain, Monaco and Italy. Today, revenues from that cover maintenance costs.

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