February 23, 2006
Gates and fences
and guards and soldiers surround us,
and we have our identification strung around our necks, pendants
that authorize our right to be where we are supposed to be.
Since I have been in Torino, things have happened
in the world that would seemingly have nothing to do with the
The vice-president of the United States shot somebody while hunting
quail. Nick sued Jessica for spousal support.
Cartoons printed in a Danish newspaper created a global panic.
But of course, it is all related, and it all
matters. The Danish team sent just one squad – its curlers – to
these Games, and upon their arrival they were put under additional
security. Did they feel safe? Their fans apparently didn’t,
having made remarks to the press that they weren’t going to wave flags
or raucously cheer (curling matches can get quite intense), attempting
to hide who they were.
According to Italian police, Denmark’s security
force here in Torino is on par with that of the United States and
Israel, which has had heightened detail since the tragedy of Munich in
1972. For the Olympic community, Munich was a security turning
point, just as 9.11 now serves as a reference for the United States’
own understanding of feeling safe. With all that goes on in the
world, Torino has had a lot to think about: the train bombings in
Spain, the London subway explosions, the continued relationship between
Italy and the U.S. in Iraq. The impact on Italian way of life has
been somewhat considerable. You need photo identification to use
the Internet in a café, for example, and Muslim women are no
longer allowed to completely veil their faces. And the Olympics,
as always, are in complete lockdown, meaning that before you enter or
leave an area, your bag and your person are searched.
Living here is like going through airport security several times
This is nothing new for those of us who have done
it all before. But does it make us feel safe? Gates and
fences and guards and soldiers surround us, and we have our
identification strung around our necks, pendants that authorize our
right to be where we are supposed to be. And all of it
serves to remind us that when we take leave of this place in just a few
days, the rest of the world is waiting for our re-entry – a world where
silver disappointment and Shaun White’s
golden moment and Bode Miller's
frustrations and Michelle Kwan's Olympics
that never were are all going to be put into a perspective
that makes other things seem more important, and yet also serve to make
us understand just how critical these seventeen days really are.