The Italian Almanac


Italian News / Sport - December 10

The speedskating oval for the Turin Winter Olympics opened with World Cup races Friday, winning praise from those who had been convinced it would not be completed in time. A week ago, construction on the oval was still ongoing. Roads still need to be paved outside the venue and there are large muddy areas that fans have to cross to enter. Inside, though, everything is complete.

"I'm pleasantly surprised, it's a real nice facility," said Casey FitzRandolph of the United States, who finished seventh in the 500-meter race, 0.23 seconds behind Chinese winner Yu Fengtong's time of 35.19. "The ice changes day to day, hour to hour, they're still playing with it. All in all though, it's pretty good. I don't think we will see any world records this weekend, at least in the sprint distances, but by February it should be much better."

Called the Oval Lingotto, the ultramodern facility has a sleek shell of reflective glass and 7,800 seats. There are 56 miles of cooling coils under the ice. The $82.5 million construction project began in June, 2003 and was delayed due to an asbestos problem. The oval is located near the center of Turin, adjacent to the Olympics media center and close to the athletes' village.

"This facility is absolutely on a world level in terms of its beauty and vanguard technology," International Skating Union president Ottavio Cinquanta said following a brief opening ceremony. "This facility is the final confirmation that Turin is ready," Turin mayor Sergio Chiamparino said.

The oval is the first covered speedskating facility in Italy.