Turin Winter Olympics 101
How to snag tickets for the February 2006 Games in Italy and find a place to stay, plus cultural goings-on, daytrips further afield, and plenty of resources for schedules, contacts, and maps
The host city of Winter Olympics XX, Turin (Torino in Italian) has been busily beefing up its facilities and cultural programming, hoping to make the most of its moment in the spotlight and present itself as an appealing tourism destination of the first order. The 16-day festivities will cover 15 different sports and dish out 84 medals to the best of 2,500 athletes as determined by 650 judges and referees and witnessed by 1.5 million spectators. Here's all the information you need to be one of them.
All the flashy ceremonies and stadium sporting events like figure skating, speed skating and ice hockey will take place in Turin, whereas the Alpine events like skiing, bobsled, and luge will occur in the Val di Susa and Sestriere mountain resorts west of the city.
Turin is also host to the Paralympics, March 10 - 19, 2006, during which athletes with disabilities compete in wheelchair curling, ice sledge hockey, Alpine skiing and Nordic skiing.
GETTING THERE: Flights for travel to Turin in mid-February are currently $572 (Alitalia) from New York; $599 (multiple carriers) from Washington, D.C.; $647 (Air France) from Chicago; $907 (multiple carriers) from Phoenix; $827 (multiple carriers) from San Francisco
WHERE TO STAY: Notoriously short on high-end lodgings, Turin has been booking up rapidly, with many rooms set aside for travel agencies and tour providers at the get-go. The official site for booking area-wide hotel rooms is the zealously named JumboGrandiEventi.it. There are currently 41 hotels listed, with doubles priced anywhere from $74 to $1,000 (63 to 853 euros) per night.
Turin's official tourism website, TurismoTorino.org, has a much more extensive database of hotels, B&Bs, and hostels, allowing you to search by price (from as low as $53/45 euros), area, or type of accommodation. The tour operator Somewhere has apartment rentals and B&Bs available with rates starting at $129/110 euros per night and a five-night minimum stay during the Olympics.
CoSport.com, North America's resource for Olympic ticket sales, offers ticket-accommodations packages (dubbed Hospitality Packages), which can drastically simplify the planning but will be significantly more expensive than the D.I.Y. approach of booking your lodgings and events separately. One of the simplest packages, four nights at the Hotel Continental Torino (double occupancy) and tickets to just one event, costs a whopping $2,778.50 per person.
Given the paltry selection of rooms left in Turin and the reality that many competitions are a good two hours outside the city, it's worth considering the adjacent region of Valle d'Aosta, about a 90-minute drive to the north near the borders of France and Switzerland. You can search for lodgings of all sorts--B&Bs, hotels, camp sites, mountain huts, hostels--on its official website: regione.vda.it
HOW TO BUY TICKETS: In North America, the official channel for purchasing tickets is CoSport.com, , 800-457-4647. Event tickets have been classified as either Type I, anticipated to be in high demand, or Type II, anticipated to be less popular. For each Type I ticket or Ceremony ticket ordered, you must order at least one Type II ticket. (Figure skating is a I; Curling is a II. You can determine the categorization and buy tickets here).
While there is still a decent amount of availability for both ticket types, the cheaper seats are selling faster than the pricey ones. As of November 15, 2005, the only Opening Ceremony tickets left were at the highest bracket, a cool $1,250 a head. If you're still in town and haven't had the Olympic spirit beaten out of you, you'll save a bundle on Closing Ceremony tickets, just $560. Here's a look at others still available: