2006 Olympic Winter Games open in Italy

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Friday, February 10, 2006

The 20th Olympic Winter Games are set to start today in Turin, Italy.

Producers of the Olympics have promised, "rhythm, passion and speed," as an estimated 35,000 people will pile inside the stadium and nearly two billion will turn out for the events.

Dancers, abutting the majestic Alps, paid a tribute to seven nations, including Austria, Germany and France, in the opening ceremonies wearing green sheaths and pulling fake cows on wheels. It was to pay homage to livestock and mountain life, and so the audience could cheer both, everyone was supplied with cowbells. Dancers then brought out big white bubbles which were stuck to their heads. Bacilli, who has performed in concerts for U2 and The Rolling Stones said the balls signify snow.

Eight women, Italian actress Sophia Loren, Chilean writer Isabel Allende, American actress Susan Sarandon, Nobel Peace-prize winner Wangari Maathai of Kenya, and three Olympic medal winners carried the Olympic flag. This was the first time ever that only women carried the flag.

At least 6,100 volunteers who worked an estimated 10,000 hours helped to organize and run the ceremonies.

Unfortunately, in the hours before the games were to start, eight cross-country skiers, a former gold medalist from Germany, and two Americans, were suspended for five days each after they failed blood tests. The tests say that they had elevated levels of hemoglobin, an enzyme within red blood cells that can increase endurance. However, the positives results could be due to the body's acclimation to mountain air, or dehydration. The American skiers are Kikkan Randall of Anchorage Alaska, and Leif Zimmermann of Bozeman, Montana.


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