February 13, 2006
6,000 kilowatt ceremony
BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

Official statistics for the Feb. 10 opening ceremonies of the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics: 6,000 kilowatts of electricity used, 5,500 pairs of shoes worn, 6,500 costumes worn and 15,000 litres of tea drunk during rehearsals. Strangely, no stat was issued for espresso or cappuccino consumption.

The star-studded gala seen around the world by as many as 2 billion people featured Yoko Ono, Peter Gabriel, Sophia Loren and Luciano Pavarotti. Yes, it wasn't over until the weight-challenged man sang.

Athletes filed onto the stadium floor to a medley of disco hits, but somehow Van Halen's "Jump" slipped in. How refreshing that was.

The highlight of the night? Formula 1 racecar driver Luca Badoer doing donuts on the floor of Stadio Olimpico.

Speaking of donuts, that's not a Tim Horton's product around Albertan Jennifer Heil's neck. That's a bona fide Olympic gold medal she won in moguls skiing on day one of competition. The work of designer Dario Quatrini is supposed to represent the Italian piazza.

IL SNUBBO?

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was notably absent from the 118th International Olympic Committee congress in Torino and the opening ceremonies. Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the head of state, opened the Games. If IOC president Jacques Rogge felt snubbed, he wasn't showing it publicly. He would only say he was "pleased" that Ciampi was delegated by the Italian government to attend. Cost overruns and reports of general disinterest in Italy's south may have kept the PM away. Or perhaps it was the start of his re-election campaign. During the weekend, he compared himself to Napoleon and Jesus Christ in separate speeches.

CHICKEN VS. THE EGG

A week before the Torino Games opened, VANOC said a 23 per cent rise in construction costs meant another $110 million of taxpayers' money was needed to build the Games. Rogge thinks the Olympics and B.C.'s sizzling economy are unrelated.

"The construction costs that are raising, that's nothing to do with the Olympic Games of course," Rogge told a news conference just hours before the opening ceremonies. "The costs are raising because the economy of British Columbia is booming."

WE'LL NEED MORE COWBELLS

The gift/prop packs given to the 35,000 people at Stadio Olimpico for the opening ceremonies consisted of a metallic plastic shopping bag containing the official red seat cushion, a white rain poncho, a small flashlight and a cowbell. Early in the ceremony, locals dressed as trees paraded around statues of bulls, igniting the first of many cowbell cacophonies.

NOT BERT'S BRO

The National Hockey Leaguers arrive today and Team Canada practises for the first time at Palasport Olimpico. But Canadian fans spotting IOC communications manager Mark Dolley elsewhere in Torino will think Todd Bertuzzi has gone AWOL. Dolley looks like Big Bert - he even has the height and the sideburns. Dolley said whenever he's in Vancouver, strangers at stores ask him whether he's Bertuzzi's brother.

SPEAKING OF CANUCKS

Whistler-based Crispin Lipscomb wore his white Canucks' jersey under his gear for the men's half pipe snowboarding final at Bardonecchia yesterday.

He didn't win a medal, but he did finish 11th with 33.5 points. He qualified for Sport Canada funding, so he can train full-time with 2010 on the horizon.

"Getting to the final is the first step to the podium," said Lipscomb.

Canucks sent Lipscomb the jersey with his name and number 06 on the back. He won gold at the Gravity Games and Canadian championships last year, also with a concealed Canucks' jersey.

Americans Shaun White and Daniel Kass had gold and silver yesterday. Finn Markku Koski got bronze.

ANKLE BITTEN

Super Bowl winners go to Disneyland or Disneyworld. How about Canadian curling Olympians? They hit the tattoo parlour.

That's what Shannon Kleibrink's rink did after beating Kelly Scott of Kelowna for the tickets to Torino. Each member had an ankle tattooed with the Olympic rings and the maple leaf.

"Was it a 3 a.m. idea? Actually it was a sane idea, came up one afternoon in the team van," Alberta's Kleibrink said after Saturday's training in Pinerolo Palaghiaccio.