February 11, 2006

Italy's Stefania Belmondo lighting the Olympic Cauldron.


With 35,000 people in the seats, and some 2 billion tuned in around the world, Italian gymnast Yuri Chechi swung a hammer onto a bronze anvil and the 2006 Olympic Winter Games began.

What a show it was, with 80 national delegations parading into Stadio Olimpico, the Koreas marching together for the first time in a Winter Games, and the American team – 211 athletes strong, the largest delegation here – wearing white leather jackets and expressing a lot of joy just to be here.  While the Mongolians fur hats might have been a highlight of the Parade, seeing the likes of figure skater Michelle Kwan, skier Bode Miller, snowboarder Shaun White, and, of course, flag bearer Chris Witty, told us all that it was time:  the Games are on.

For Italians, likely the proudest moment was when skiing legend Alberto Tomba, the colorful slalom specialist who won three golds and two silvers in three Olympics, entered the stadium.  He remains the only skier to win back-to-back golds in giant slalom, which he did in Calgary and Albertville, and the stadium crowd roared when he entered.  After handing the torch to a relay of prominent Italian Olympians, alpine skier Deborah Compagnoni turned over the flame to the most decorated Italian Olympian in history:  Stefania Belmondo, who owns ten career medals in cross-country skiing, including a hat trick – gold, silver, bronze – in Salt Lake in 2002.   

For me, however, the most amazing point of the ceremony was when the Olympic flag entered Stadio Olimpico in the hands, for the first time, of eight women, including Oscar-winner and legendary screen Italian screen idol Sophia Loren; Chilean writer Isabel Allende; 2004 Nobel Peace prize winner Wangari Maathai; actress and Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, Mozambique Olympic track champion Maria Mutola, and Cambodian activist Somaly Mam, who has campaigned relentless against forced prostitution.

And just to chalk up one more for the women?  While Iceland makes it a point to always choose a woman to carry its flag in the Parade of Nations, China made the move for the first time:  short track skater Yang Yang (A) proudly brought her country’s flag into the stadium (and yes, the A is part of her name, and it’s a long story).  Considered to be the most celebrated winter sports star in her country’s history, she won two golds in Salt Lake, China’s first in the Winter Games, and decided to return to competition after a brief retirement to serve as a role model for those coming behind her.  

So now to Day 1:  Saturday, February 11, with competition in biathlon, pairs figure skating, moguls, hockey, luge, Nordic combined, ski jumping, and the debut of American Chad Hedrick on the speed skating oval.  Game on.

H A V E  A  Q U E S T I O N  F O R  D R .  B A S S
D U R I N G  T H E  W I N T E R  G A M E S ?

C L I C K  H E R E
We will be posting the questions and answers
on the CNR At The Winter Games website!
m o r e

Be sure to check back often for  Dr. Amy Bass's updates to her
Online CNR Winter Olympic Games Diary.

O F F I C E  O F  C O M M U N I C A T I O N S
29 Castle Place, New Rochelle, NY 10805
© 2006  The College of New Rochelle