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Italian Olympic Organizers Hope to Make Good Impression on Visitors


Cities that host the Olympics hope that people who watch the Games on television will be inspired to visit, and that those who visit will want to return. But as VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer reports from Turin, the surge in tourism during the Olympics is not necessarily beneficial for all local businesses.

Olympic organizers estimate that about one million people will visit Turin and the nearby mountain venues during the Winter Games. But that does not mean that during the Games business is good for everyone.

Skiing is closed to the public in Sestriere where the alpine events are being staged.

In Cesana, where the bobsled, luge and biathlon competitions are being run, the nearby ski slopes are still open to the public. But little revenue is coming in because there are few skiers enjoying the snow. Most who are there are Italians who are close enough to make the drive for the day.

Ski instructor Lara Zaccaria told VOA a slow winter season is the price they are paying for hosting the Olympics.

"Here we don't have a lot a business because the hotels are full for the Olympics," she said. "But it is good because it is important for all of Italy and the world and for us. So we think the future will be better."

The mostly empty ski slopes are a pleasant surprise for Laura Mills, who is here from London to visit family.

"Yeah, we thought it'd be really busy. So it's good for us," Mills said.

The nearby winter resort of Sestriere is full of Olympic visitors. While none are skiing, most are having a great time. Elizabeth Biaett is from the western U.S. state of Utah. She was a volunteer during the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and says Italy is doing a great job of hosting the Winter Games.

"It has been incredible. The Italian people have gone out of their way to make things work," she said.

Italian tourism officials such as Mirko Ussegio says this kind of favorable review by the thousands of visitors here, plus the positive media coverage being broadcast daily to millions around the world, will lead to increased tourism in the future.

"The visibility, the promotion, you can only get that through the Olympics, is something you cant pay for with any money," Ussegio said.

South African Ray Duncan made the trip here from England with his British girlfriend to watch the snowboarding competition in Bardonecchia. He is a recreational snowboarder and told VOA he will likely come back.

"I had not been to Italy before and I've now seen the mountains and the ranges around here, and it's really nice, so it would be something that I would consider for my next trip, to come out and see it. The Italians so far have been pretty friendly. So, all good," he said.

That is just the kind of impression Olympics organizers hope to make visitors enjoying themselves so they can spread the word, resulting in a long-term gain for the tourism industry here.