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Italy Ready for Olympic Games


International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge has toured the Olympic village in Turin just three days before the opening ceremony. Security is tight and minor problems remain in the city, but authorities are confident the 20th Winter Olympic Games will be a success.

Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi said "next Friday's inaugural ceremony and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, symbol of fraternity among peoples, will be a moment filled with emotion for us Italians and for sportsmen from all over the world."

The president appealed for responsibility as the country prepares to host the 20th Winter Olympic Games. He said everyone has worked hard to prepare for these games and stressed their importance for the region of Piedmont and for the whole of Italy.

Mr. Ciampi said the image of the Alps and the Piedmont valleys, of the church steeples and towers of our towns, will be seen by millions of people. "I am confident", he aded, "that everyone, citizens and institutions will work together for the best possible Olympic games."

President Ciampi said this is a chance for Italians to confirm their capabilities, and to boost development. This is an opportunity that cannot be missed.

As he spoke, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, was touring the village facilities with the IOC executive board. Rogge will be staying in the athletes' village, which he said expresses Italian style and culture.

He said the 100,000 square-meter village, which will host 2,500 people from 85 different countries, should help dispel Turin's image as a gray, bleak city.

At the end of the tour, a signing ceremony was held for the Olympic Truce, an initiative aimed at stopping armed conflicts during the Feb. 10-26 games.

Security is very tight in Turin. A massive operation has been mounted with about 10,000 police officers reinforced by army soldiers to protect the Olympic venues. In addition NATO is providing two AWACS surveillance planes to patrol the skies during the games.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says Italy has spared no effort to provide security for the Olympics.

Meanwhile, the Italian parliament passed a measure that includes a scratch-card lottery to help the country cover the financing of the Turin Winter Olympics.

The city appears ready to host athletes, dignitaries, and visitors, but some minor problems remain. The Olympic committee is having trouble getting Italian drivers to respect the lanes reserved for Olympic vehicles and to add to that, the more than 2,000 bus drivers hired for the games are still learning how to get around.