No Snow and Lots of Cranes
Panorama: Construction in Sestriere
Sestriere is one big construction site. And because it's so much smaller than Torino, you feel the impending Olympics here much more than in the Piemontese capital.
Everywhere you look, there are diggers moving earth back and forth and big, tall fences with Torino 2006 flags on them keeping passersby out of the building sites. Workers are still finishing the hundreds of apartments they've built here to house the Olympic athletes, which after the Games will be sold as condominiums. They're also still working on the viewer's platform at the base of one of the slopes, among other things.
It's a mad hubbub of activity. But what's blatantly missing are the rich Italians who normally frolic at this resort. And the snow that usually falls here.
The Piemontesi are scratching their heads at the weather this winter. It's hardly snowed at all yet. For the Olympics, of course, they'll make enough snow so the Games can go on (the snow-making cannons are part of the background noise here), but usually by now these mountains are blanketed in thick natural powder.
This year, the Piemontesi tell me there's been more snow in the southern part of Italy than there has here. The changing weather is a big topic of conversation, much like it was in the States after our devastating hurricane season.
The lack of snow could be one reason no self-respecting Italian with two Euros to rub together is anywhere near here. But the rich snowbunnies could also be staying away because well, the town's one big construction site crawling with Italian paramilitary Carabinieri police.
The wealthy Torinesi who love to ski here on the weekends in the season are probably thinking Sestriere will be a whole lot more fun when it's finished, and everyone's gone home. The slopes here will close to the public anyway at the end of this month. The hoteliers and restaurant owners expect the Italians to be back in March.
For now, you hear a lot of English and German and French being spoken. And you see a lot of people walking around with big passes around their necks that allow them access into restricted sites around town. And then there are the groups of people in matching warm winter jackets with media company logos on their backs, like Reuters and France Televisions. (Hey, where's my Washington Post jacket?)
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