Sunday, February 12, 2006

Lost In The Torinese Transport System

For the Olympics, TOROC (Torino Olympic Committee) has setup a very efficient and elaborate bus system to cart around media, athletes and their families. A bus will take us from the Media Village to Lingotto and the Main Media Centre in about half an hour. There we can connect to other buses that directly connect you to the medals plaza, local venues and mountain venues. It's pretty easy actually.

Click here to view a short movie of us waiting for the MC-8 Olympic bus to take us to Lingotto (11 MB).

Last night three British folk from the Bullpen (we renamed the relief crew area this because we are the relief players) and myself decided that we were going to go exploring Downtown Turin. We thought to truly make this an Italian experience we would take one of the local trams.

We waited for 20 minutes for the #18 tram to take us from Lingotto/MMC to Downtown and the Piazza Castello where the medals ceremonies are being held. It never arrived, so we hopped on the first bus heading in that direction only to discover that it veers off after Porta Nuova, the main train station. So we got off the bus and walked down some busy narrow streets packed with people.

Eventually, we ended up on a street with a tram stop and the #4 tram was approaching.

We decided to take it and see where it went...nowhere. We sat on that tram for 20 minutes and it managed to squeak down 3 blocks. It was packed full of people squeezed in like sardines.

Escaping the tram, the first order of business was to find a place to eat. We walked down more narrow streets until we got to a restaurant. It looked good enough and it was. I ate something called Strozzapreti. Dom, the "vision mixer" in our group (who lived in Rome for 5 years) informed me that Strozzapreti stands for "Strangle the Priest." Apparently, a priest once loved this pasta dish so much that he ate it so fast choking himself. Of course, I would choose to eat something that chokes a Priest to death!

The bill was a lot more expensive than the other restaurants I had eaten in. They had also charged us a cover charge, which is not uncommon in restaurants in Italy. If you sit at a table, you get charged a cover charge. But tipping isn't expected here.

We stepped out of the restaurant and it turned out we were right beside the Palazzo di Città...City Hall for the city of Turin.

After snapping some photos like the one above, Dom asked some Guardia di Finanza (a form of police) where we could catch a bus to take us back to the media village. (We decided it was too hectic downtown to do anything else) He directed us to a nearby street where we figured we'd catch a bus or try to hail a cab.

Walking through the remains of a market of somekind (it really was a mess) we ended up at the street where our bus went down. But the bus we needed didn't stop on this corner. It was more like 10 blocks away. At that point, we then figured if a tram came, then we'd take it the 6 blocks. But we started getting cold and Ed (a VTR operator from the Bullpen and my room mate at the media village) tried hailing cabs. They wouldn't stop. Apparently you can't hail a cab in Italy. You have to call for them. Several trams also headed our way but they kept turning down a different street.

Eventually a tram came and again it went three blocks in 20 minutes. But this time when it stopped it stopped for 5 minutes. Several passengers walked to the front of the tram to discover that the driver had just taken off. Some rather skiddy looking Italian guys started waving their arms and hurling Italian swear words. While we sat there we saw our bus go by the us twice, but we were trapped on a driverless tram. Eventually the driver came back and we started moving. Got off the tram and our bus was right behind it. We made our way back to the Media Village (which was only 5 minutes away).

Then we vowed never to take the trams again.

Tidbits About The IBC

The MMC is the home to the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) and the Main Press Centre (MPC). This model of combining both in one place started in Salt Lake City in 2002. They liked this model and the Italians decided to do the same.

This photo was taken outside the main gate to the MMC at Lingotto. This is the site of an old Fiat car factory and the roof of the main building (not in frame) has an old race track on top. The assembly line worked horizontally and vertically. When the car was assembled, it exited on the roof and they test drove it. In fact, the roof of this building was used in the 1969 movie The Italian Job. The Lingotto building is now an office building, shopping mall and conference centre.

Taking up 32,000 square metres of the 52,000 square metre (or 559,000 sq. ft) MMC is the International Broadcast Centre. The heart of the television coverage for the XX Olympic Winter Games. Basically all the rights holding broadcasters (CBC, NBC, BBC etc) have based their crews here for the duration of the games. TOBO (Torino Olympic Broadcasting Organization -- my employer), also based here, provides the world feeds of all Olympic events to the rights holders.

The IBC is basically a maze of hallways like the one seen here. Just take a walk from here to the exit (about 200m from where this photo was taken) and you'll hear almost every imaginable language being spoken mixed in with a lot of English and Italian.

The security in this building is very tight. In fact, there are three levels of police that guard the entrances and hallways. The local Turin Polizia, La Guardia di Finanza (a police force that guards economic centres and financial institutions), and the Cabarinieri (national police force). Anytime you exit the MMC and reenter, your accreditation is checked (twice), all bags are x-rayed and you are sent through metal detectors.
Just taking this photo in the hallway, I was approached by the Polizia and told not to take photos of the positions of any uniformed officer. They let this photo go because it didn't really reveal anything.

Once you get into the MMC, you can head to either the MPC or the IBC. Depending on your accreditation. If you're not a rightsholder (i.e. CTV, ABC, basically not CBC, NBC etc) you can't enter the IBC, but you can enter the MPC. Rightsholders and TOBO personnel can access both. My accreditation allows me to enter both AND any venue at the Games. Most people assigned to work a specific sport for TOBO are only allowed into their venue. I'm special.

Once you enter the IBC, you pass various information desks and pass Master Control.

This section of Master Control is called "Contribution." They monitor the signals coming into the IBC from the venues. They check the incoming video and audio and make sure it meets a specific standard before it gets sent to...

"Distribution" (left part of photo) Here they equalize the audio and video levels before they get sent to "Transmission" (right part of photo) where the signals are sent to the rightsholders to air on their networks.
This is HDTV Master Control. There are only a handful of rightsholders that are actually broadcasting the games in HD.

Here's a little map with the layout of the IBC.

As you can see, NBC takes up most of the floor space at the IBC. CBC a close second. I am based in the section called BOC, Broadcast Operations Centre.

That's a sum of it all.