January 16, 2006

Clowns and couture mix in Turin ceremonies

By Sophie Hardach

MILAN (Reuters) - Turin will open the Winter Olympics next
month in a whirl of fashion and technology, and close the Games
with a nostalgic carnival of harlequins.

"The opening ceremony is all about passion, energy, the
Italy of the future. It will be a bit aggressive," Marco Balich
of Filmmaster Group, executive producer of the ceremonies, told
a news conference on Monday.

"The closing ceremony will have a carnival theme - with a
melancholy air because it's the end of the Games," he added
after a presentation of the outlines of the events.

Olympic hosts usually try to keep details of the ceremonies
under wraps. But Turin has already leaked several elements of
the opening ceremony on February 10.

Veteran designer Giorgio Armani is preparing the entrance
of the Italian flag into the stadium while fashion house
Moschino will style the athletes' parade. Speed skaters with
flame-shooting helmets will also whizz around.

The closing ceremony on February 26 will look back at
Italy's cultural past with a nostalgic feel.

At the presentation, theater director Daniele Finzi Pasca,
who is in charge of the closing event, pulled back a curtain to
reveal some of the clowns and acrobats that will bid farewell
to the Games.

Dressed in the faded gold and black-and-white costumes of
European circuses of days gone by, the group of harlequins and
columbines mixed sadness with their smiles.

While Turin's budget of 28 million euros ($34 million) for
both ceremonies is a fraction of what Athens spent on its Greek
gods-and-sports extravaganza, the shows will have their share
of headline-grabbers.

Pop and opera singer Andrea Boccelli and grungy Canadian
Avril Lavigne will entertain the Turin crowds.