Originally created 01/09/06

Tomba and Belmondo could light flame together



ROME - Alberto Tomba and Stefania Belmondo could light the Turin flame together.

Organizers are not ruling out the possibility that two people might handle the honors at the Feb. 10 opening ceremony.

"The possibilities are infinite. There could be various solutions," said Alberto Zambernardi, who is in charge of organizing the ceremony. "The final decision has not been made yet."

Tomba, the retired skiing great, has always been the leading candidate.

Belmondo, a retired two-time Olympic champion in cross country skiing, was scheduled to carry the torch in her home province of Cuneo just outside Turin on Feb. 2, a week before the games. But organizers now say that is not likely, leading to speculation she has been selected for the honor at the opening ceremony.

"We're waiting for confirmation, but I don't think it will happen," Stefano Coscia, the media director for the torch relay, said of Belmondo's relay turn in Cuneo.

Tomba is not listed as a torchbearer at any point in the two-month relay.

"Those are two names we are not sure when they will carry the torch," Coscia said.

Deborah Compagnoni, a three-time Olympic champion in Alpine skiing, indicated last week that she would likely not be the final torchbearer.

"It would be a great honor, but I haven't been contacted," she said.

Zambernardi said candidates have been contacted.

The province of Cuneo has started an e-mail campaign in support of Belmondo's candidacy.

"Belmondo is certainly one of the candidates," Zambernardi said.

The torch relay has wound its way through southern Italy and Sicily in recent weeks, and turned northward Thursday for the journey up to Turin.

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CHOCOLATE DELIGHTS: Turin takes its chocolate seriously. The city's tourist board has introduced the ChocoPass card for the Olympics.

Available in 10, 15 and 20 euro ($12, $18 and $24) versions, the cards entitle visitors to a large array of chocolate tastings throughout the city.

Turin's best-known chocolate candies are gianduiotti, a hazelnut variety. There are also pralines featuring various fillings, hot chocolate, chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream, each made in a distinct Turin style at the city's renowned cafes and pastry shops.

The ChocoPass was one of several initiatives introduced Wednesday by the Turin tourist board.

The train connection from the Turin airport will be extended to the Porta Susa station near downtown and the Lingotto station, where the main press center and speedskating arena are located.

Fans arriving at Milan's Malpensa airport are advised to take a bus to Milan's central rail station and a train to Turin. The highway between Milan and Turin remains a dangerous construction zone and should be avoided.

"We definitely advise arriving in the city by train and then moving about within the city by public transportation," said Paola Musolino of the Turin tourist board.

The Torino card offers visitors unlimited access to the city's tourist attractions, including more than 140 museums, exhibitions, monuments and royal residences. Prices have been bumped up slightly for the Olympics for the cards, which also will offer free access to public transport and Olympic shuttles during the games.

The Torino card comes in a $19 version for 48 hours, $22 for 72 hours and $36 for five days.

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ARTIFICIAL SNOW: Thank goodness for artificial snow.

The Turin Games' Alpine zone has had only three snowfalls so far this season, leaving 26 inches of snow, far below average.

"That's a lot less then what the northern Alps have received," said ski competition manager Gianni Poncet. "We're ready thanks to our artificial snow-making capacity."

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ROCCA RAKES IN NEW SPONSOR: Giorgio Rocca's slalom form has been perfect so far, and it's starting to pay off for the Italian.

Rocca, who won the World Cup season's first three slalom races, introduced his new helmet sponsor Wednesday. The deal with the Valtellina area where Rocca is from is worth a reported $300,000.

"It's always nice to promote your home territory rather than some other product," said Rocca, who wore a "for rent" sign on his helmet during his wins in Beaver Creek, Madonna di Campiglio and Kranjska Gora.

Rocca said he also will ski the combined race at the Olympics, hoping to improve on his bronze medal in the discipline at last season's world championships.

Rocca also remembered Severino Bottero, the French ski coach who was killed Monday in an auto accident. The Italian-born Bottero formerly worked with the Italian team.

"He lived for skiing and helped me a lot," Rocca said.