The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - November 11

The bearer of the Coca-Cola Olympic torch is facing a series of “no through road” signs, and a clash of opinions. At least two of Rome’s municipalities have refused access to the sponsor. One of the two chairs of the boycotting councils claims to have persuaded, at a meeting in Bari, “three hundred local administrators. Not all of them will do what we are doing, but some will”. Perhaps the Turin 2006 Olympics have already started for the torch bearer may have to negotiate a number of hurdles on his way to Piedmont.

The issue arose from a decision by Rome’s eleventh municipal authority, which claims that the Olympic sponsor is breaching workers’ rights in Colombia, and will not allow the flame to pass through its territory. It might sound like an isolated case, but it isn’t. A similar decision was taken by another of the municipalities the flame was supposed to cross after a unanimous vote, with even rightwing National Alliance in favour.

In a next few hours, other authorities announced they were going to “put the issue to the local area council”. Some, including the historic centre’s council, demanded that “the city’s ethics committee should express a view to stop this ridiculous business of some zones saying no and others doing the reverse”. The city’s mayor, Walter Veltroni, has not issued a statement but did hint at “the city council’s irritation”.

The issue now risks spreading beyond the boundaries of the capital. “I attended a meeting in Bari with three hundred local administrators, mayors and councilors”, said the chair of the eleventh Roman municipality, Communist Refoundation member Massimiliano Smeriglio, “and our protest was unanimously approved. It’s too soon to say whether other cities will follow our lead”, he smiled, “but I couldn't rule it out.