January 20, 2006

Turin organizers urge communists to help calm protests

By Simon Evans

TURIN, Italy (Reuters) - organizers of next month's Winter
Games have urged the leader of Italy's Communist Refoundation
party to help calm environmental protests on the route of the
Olympic torch.

Mario Pescante, Sports Minister and supervisor of the
Games, is worried the protests, some of which have halted the
torch procession, could continue into the Games which start on
Feb 10.

"Can you imagine the impression given if we have these
protestors at the competition venues as well?" he was quoted as
saying by the Turin daily La Stampa on Friday.

The torch is traveling around Italy and neighboring
countries, and organizers estimate around four million people
have taken part in the pre-Games celebrations.

However, there have been protests about the environmental
impact of the Games on the valleys which host many of the
events and in some cases protesters have run in front of the
torch-bearer and brought the procession to a halt.

Turin Olympic Committee (TOROC) president Valentino
Castellini and CEO Cesare Vaciago have written to Rifondazione
leader Fausto Bertinotti asking him to help isolate hardcore
protestors from the peaceful majority.

Bertinotti should make a "gesture of differentiation
between the protests and their most violent and intolerant
fringe," the two men wrote.

However, the appeal looks unlikely to receive a positive
response from Bertinotti. Paolo Ferraro, a member of Communist
Refoundation's leadership, has already objected to the letter.

"I find it rather odd, this idea that the secretary of a
political party can, in some way, put the muzzle on movements
that in recent days have interrupted the procession of the
torch across Italy on several occasions," he told La Stampa.

"The reasons for these protests can be found in the failed
policies of the government and the (parliamentary) majority
that Pescante is part of."

This week Maurizio Bruno, a Turin leader of Forza Italia,
the center-right party led by Italian Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi, objected to the color of the flags and bunting put
up around the city for the Games. The red flags and trimmings
reminded him of communist decorations in China, Bruno said.

Italo Lupi, an architect who helped design the decorations,
rejected the charge. He said the flags were closer to orange
than the classic 'communist' red and noted that the coloring
for the mountain venues was light blue.