Don't leave home without right plastic

TURIN, Italy -- Flight to Italy: $1,500.

Cost of cup of java: $2.

A chance to meet Wayne Gretzky: Priceless.

But buying a ticket to see the Canadian men play hockey at the Olympics and that chance to see Gretzky ain't gonna happen. Not if you plan to use MasterCard, anyway.

Visa is everywhere you want to be at these Games.

As a worldwide partner, Visa is the only credit card accepted at any place that has anything to do with the Games.

Turns out MasterCard really is priceless.

Turin target for terrorists?

One of the first conversations I overheard upon arrival in this Olympic city was about terrorism. A group of men ahead were talking about the threat here.

"Italy is such an easy target," said one fellow.

All in his party agreed. Terrorism has been an issue at the Olympics since the 1972 Munich Games. Polizia, with their white belts, are present everywhere and there's tight security to get into the venues. About 9,000 security personnel are employed for these Games.

Still, after being in the Bank of Montreal on Wharncliffe Road when it was hit by a robber last week and seeing the suspect, I find myself constantly taking mental notes of those around me.

While sipping coffee in a media cafe, I noticed a guy with a dark jacket over a yellow shirt with greyish hair, heading to a table to eat breakfast. What if he had an electronic device to set off a bomb covered up in those eggs?

He began to look suspicious.

Same with the female server in a black suit with a white blouse, her long, dark hair tied back with a ribbon. Was that a ticking sound I heard coming from her apron pocket?

If any thing does happen and I'm nearby, at least the polizia will get a good description.

Unmasking the masks

With the Winter Games notorious for the ill health of humans due to gatherings in close quarters, face masks have been popping up.

Riding on the bus yesterday, I sneezed four times in a row and the woman across from me quickly brought out a mask from her backpack.

I talked to Connie Lebrun, a London doctor working with the Canadian medical team here, about the usefulness of the paper masks.

Lebrun, who is at her fifth Olympics, said masks can stop the spread of germs, but so far there haven't been many bugs to contend with.

She noted that some people have been using them in Turin to deal with the smog. "I don't think it (smog) is a major medical issue like it was in Athens."

What's to like about Turin:

- Flower stands on sidewalks.

- Gas stations in the middle of the street. Quick, easy and accessible from both sides. There's also a lane for use by Olympic vehicles only throughout the city to ease congestion and help the Olympic family get where we need to go on time.

- Graffiti on buildings. The Italians haven't tried to cover up the unsightly complexes. And while you can tell they've spruced up the place a bit, their attitude seems to be "What you see is what you get."

What's not to like:

- McDonald's signs: They're everywhere. Yes the restaurant is a corporate sponsor, but putting athletes on McDonald's billboards is like giving a baby a bottle of Coke.

- The unpredictability of wireless rate cards is frustrating for those working with computers.

- No snow in the city. It's hard to get into the spirit of the Winter Games. The organizing committee has a pamphlet on the environment, boasting that these are the greenest Games ever.

That may be true.