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Find time to read this marvelous article written by Alan Abrahamson for the Los Angleles Times.

TURIN, Italy — It is nearly 56 years now. Still they come, pilgrims from across Italy, Italians from around the world. Here, at the wall behind the church on the high hill, one of life's truths is made plain: Death can claim even the greatest of champions, but the heart and soul of a people can carry on.

In May 1949, an airplane carrying the Torino Calcio team, arguably the best soccer squad in the world, crashed in heavy fog into the back of the Superga Basilica. All 31 people on board perished — 18 of them soccer players.

They had won four straight Italian championships and filled much of the roster of the Italian national team. After the years of Mussolini and fascism, after the humiliation of World War II, these men had shown the world what Italians could do.

The loss of that team is a defining memory of this region — one that infuses preparations for the 2006 Winter Olympics, which open here one year from today.

"The past here is present," said Claudio Sala, a Torino star in the 1970s who still lives in the area.

"Being a Torinese, having the Olympics at home is a very emotional thing," said Nadia Cortassa, who finished fifth in the women's triathlon at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens. "It is a very big opportunity."

A number of logistical and financial issues remain for Turin 2006 organizers and the Italian government, including transportation to the mountain venues and a shortage of hotel rooms. For months, the organizing committee has been confronting a revenue shortfall of about $200 million; at a meeting earlier this week in Rome, the government agreed to cover it. A number of Olympic-related sites remain under construction but appear all but certain to be completed on target, Olympic officials said.

Most important, several officials said, the organizing committee appears to be operating with urgency and decisiveness. Most credit the change to the oversight of Mario Pescante, a veteran IOC member and Italian government undersecretary, and Luciano Barra, an experienced Italian sports official, who were brought on board late last year.

"Even the logistics can be solved," Barra said Wednesday. "Decisions must be taken with courage."

The developments have buoyed preparations with a renewed sense of optimism as the International Olympic Committee's ruling executive board gathers here today for a series of "one year to go" events.

"The 2006 Games is the chance not only for Turin to shine but for the whole of Italy to shine, to showcase to the world what it can offer," IOC President Jacques Rogge said.

In Italy, and in Italian communities around the world, the tale of Torino Calcio binds the generations — even if one roots for the city's other soccer team, giu***tus, or one of the dozens based elsewhere across Italy.

To many, the Torino team of the mid- to late-1940s remains il grande Torino.

"We lost an expression of our excellence," former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo said.

"A traumatic wound," said Luigi Ballerini, a poet and author who teaches modern and contemporary Italian literature at UCLA.

In Italy, soccer rules the sports scene. Torino and giu***tus are among the sport's leading sources of tradition — giu***tus in black and white stripes, Torino in a distinctive blood-red jersey called granata.

Valentino Castellani, who now heads the Turin 2006 Olympic organizing committee, grew up a Torino fan in Varmo, a small village in northeastern Italy, where he had turned 9 in 1949.

"We would go around in the village writing on the walls, 'Viva Toro' ['Go Torino'] and 'Abbasso gi*ve' ['Down With giu***tus']," he recalled.

Enzo Viscusi, a senior executive with the Italian energy conglomerate ENI, grew up a giu***tus fan in southern Italy. Nonetheless, he said of the Torino team, "I can still name all the players…. It was Italy's pride."

In the 1930s, giu***tus dominated Italian soccer. At the end of 1941, however, Torino adopted an alignment in which the 11 players on the field lined up as three forwards, two attacking midfielders, two defensive midfielders, three defenders and a goalkeeper.

This "innovative and rational system of play" struck a balance between the "individual virtuosity" of stars such as team captain Valentino Mazzola and "collective cohesion," France-based author Paul Dietschy wrote last year in the scholarly journal Soccer and Society.

It also "echoed the modernization of an economy in Turin that had Fiat as its forefront," he added, referring to the automotive giant that has long served as the city's economic base.

"After the war, after all the suffering and destruction, it was a symbol of a renaissance of Italy," echoed Ugo Colombino, an economics professor at the University of Turin.

Torino won the Italian national club championship in 1943 and again in 1946, 1947 and 1948, with no formal championship held in 1944 and 1945 because of the war.

Beppe Nizza, 73, recalled that he often rode his bicycle from his home in Canale to the nearby town where Torino trained.

"There was a player, Eusebio Castigliano. He used to see me and smile," said Nizza, who still lives in Canale. "He could throw a coin and back kick it with the heel of his shoe over his head and into his pocket."

On May 3, 1949, Torino played a charity match in Lisbon, Portugal.

Returning home the next day in dense fog, the team's propeller-driven plane crashed shortly after 5 p.m. into the back wall of the basilica, high on the ridge of the hills east of town. The cause remains unclear.

Thousands trooped to the crash site, which holds the tombs of Italian royalty, the Savoys, who had made Turin their base since the 15th century.

Local lore has it that the plane almost cleared the hill.

"If they were 10 meters higher, they would have passed," Castellani said. "But they didn't. That was their destiny."

More than 500,000 people turned out for the funeral, according to newspaper accounts.

"My father and I had to run … to avoid being trampled," Nizza recalled. "Everyone was crying. We were devastated."

Italian officials awarded Torino the 1949 championship, but a long slump has followed, interrupted only by a championship in 1976. Over the last several years, Torino has mostly been relegated to the second division of Italian soccer.

giu***tus, meanwhile, has known great recent success and become known worldwide. Its name ranks with aficionados among the likes of Britain's Manchester United.

Nonetheless, today's Torino players feel a strong connection to the granata jersey.

"The emotion when you sign a contract here — it's not just for the money," said goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino. "It's tradition."

"Fight with honor," reads one of the granata-colored banners strung across one end of the stadium for home games like Monday night's 2-0 victory over Bari.

"I'm a Torino fan because my father is a Torino fan," said Piergiorgio Orla, 44, an optometrist. "This is the story of this city."

A bank executive from Venice, Elisabetta Deste, 46, stood this week at the spot of the crash. She had made time in a busy day — afternoon meetings, long train ride back to Venice in the evening — just to see the shrine, which was decorated with a poster, wreath, T-shirt and three sprays of flowers.

A commemorative Torino Calcio postcard bore the message, written in Italian: "Remember always … with love."

"You know, we all know, what happened in 1949," Deste said with a sigh.

Castellani, who had been Turin's mayor before heading the 2006 committee, said the crash remains a sad and powerful memory for the city.

Even so, he said, "with the Olympic Games … we can celebrate."

2006 WINTER GAMES AT A GLANCE

• When: Feb. 10-26, 2006.

• Site: Turin in northwest Italy, near the French border, in the Piedmont region.

• Athletes: 2,500 from 85 countries.

• Fans: Up to 1.5 million expected.

• Sports and disciplines: Biathlon, bobsled, Nordic combined, curling, freestyle skiing, hockey, luge, figure skating, speedskating, short-track speedskating, ski jumping, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, skeleton, snowboard.

*

BY THE NUMBERS

• 3 Olympic Villages: Torino, Bardonecchia and Sestriere.

• 15 Disciplines: biathlon, bobsled, Nordic combined, curling, freestyle, ice hockey, figure skating, speedskating, ski jumping, Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, short-track, skeleton, luge and snowboard.

• 17 Days of competitions: Feb. 10 to 26, 2006.

• 84 Titles at stake.

• 85 National Olympic Committees.

• 650 Judges and umpires.

• 2,500 Athletes.

• 2,500 Coaches and national team officials.

• 2,300 Representatives of the IOC, National Olympic committees and federations.

• 6,000 Guests of sponsors.

• 10,000 Media.
 

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Indeed...best of luck to Torino...

Though lets just say that a certain owner *cough* Cimminelli *cough* needs to be rid of before anything positive ever happens to Torino...:sigh:
 

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Cimmi who? :scream:
Great article :depress:
 

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Discussion Starter #5
GaGa said:
Though lets just say that a certain owner *cough* Cimminelli *cough* needs to be rid of before anything positive ever happens to Torino...:sigh:
True enough. The only problem is that Cimmi won't be on the helm only if someone incidentally drops an axe on his head.
 
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