February 27, 2006

Games over and Turin copes with exodus

By Simon Evans

TURIN (Reuters) - The medals have all been won and the
flame has been put out but on Monday Turin was dealing with the
final challenge of the Winter Olympics -- getting thousands of
people out of the city and on their way home.

Around 20,000 people -- athletes, officials, fans and the
media -- were heading out of the city's Caselle airport after
Sunday's closing ceremony ended the 20th Winter Games.

"Everything is going smoothly, we are handing out small
radios to passengers and there is a spirit of collaboration and
a good atmosphere," said airport spokesman Roberto Bergandi.

"Some flights have been delayed 15 to 20 minutes but there
aren't particularly long queues and the police controls are
discreet," he added


The first plane out of Caselle was at 1am (2400 GMT) and in
all 200 flights were to head out of the Turin airport on
Monday, 80 more than the daily average.

"It was absolutely smooth, they were very organised and
there were no problems at all," a Reuters reporter said after
catching an early flight.

Milan's Malpensa airport was also taking on extra traffic
with Olympic teams arriving at the airport as early as 6am


For some it had clearly been a long night. One Olympic
volunteer lay fast asleep on the airport floor in his official
tracksuit while a group of Russians, still in team tracksuits,
continued a celebration in the bar.

For Turin's motorists there was still another 24 hours
before normality returned to the roads. The special Olympic
lanes designed to ease congestion for those involved in the
Games remain in force until Tuesday.

The city's central squares will continue to have an
'Olympic look' for some time yet.

The Olympic store, selling branded merchandise will remain
open at Piazza Vittorio Veneto for another week while the stage
at 'Medals Plaza' at Piazza Castello will remain in place for
concerts and other events leading up to the closing ceremony of
the Para-Olympics on March 19.

But at the main media center in the Lingotto area of Turin
workers were busy dismantling the temporary structures on
Monday that have provided home to the world's press.

The television screens which have beamed images of curling,
skiing and ice-skating for the past fortnight had motorcycling
and golf providing a backdrop to the removal work which will
return Lingotto to its regular function as an exhibition

In the mountain venues life began to return to normal. The
streets of Sestriere that were packed with Alpine ski fans on
Saturday were quiet after the convoy of vehicles taking skiers
and staff out of the town had wound its way down to the
motorway on Sunday.

Sestriere began reverting to its old self with villagers
walking their dogs and families browsing the local shops.

Some structures were dismantled, but most will remain in
tact for the upcoming Paralympics (March 10-19).

(Additional reporting by Antonella Ciancio)