Nerves: Bracing for Trouble at Italy’s Winter Olympics

Northern Italy is bracing itself for the winter Olympics. I am thankful they’re being held in Torino instead of Milano, but we’ll get some spillover traffic, and it seems that we already have extra security measures. Every day a pair of policemen walk down my morning train as soon as it leaves Lecco, scanning for unattended baggage. I think they get off at the next stop (Calolziocorte, five minutes away) and go straight back to Lecco, because I never see them again after that.

Milan’s central station has a very noticeable police presence, but that’s been true for years now. I was impressed to see at least a pair of them every day on the platform where my morning train pulls in, til I realized that they were actually there for the TGV (high-speed train) to Paris departing from the other side of the platform. I’ve seen them questioning north African-looking men from time to time, though so far I haven’t noticed anyone actually being arrested or prevented from travelling.

According to today’s news, Italy is at heightened risk of terrorist attacks for the next three months, due to the Olympics and then the elections. Recall that the bad guys killed 400 people on a train in Spain a few years ago, changing the outcome of the election held a few days later. The terrorists got what they were after: the new Spanish government withdrew its troops from Iraq.

Berlusconi was already making noises months ago about withdrawing Italian troops. Nothing wrong with that, but there’s no peacenik principle behind it: it’s sheer electioneering. We’re not hearing anything about that at the moment. Our prime minister has more important fish to fry: he’s trying desperately, before the end of the legislative session next week, to get one more law passed, something to do with appeals in court cases which, if passed, will help to keep himself out of jail.

He even went so far as to try to postpone the elections from the April 9th date that all parties had agreed on, “because of important unfinished legislative business,” but also, quite obviously, to have more time to bombard the public with himself via his stranglehold on the Italian media. “Par condicio” – the legal requirement that political parties get equal airtime – has become a hollow joke.

But the Italian public is not stupid, and people seem to be fed up with Berlusconi’s antics. The Italian presidency is largely ceremonial, but President Ciampi does have one ace up his sleeve: HE decides when to dissolve Parliament and call elections, usually in accordance with what the political parties request of him. Having already settled on April 9th, he has no intention of changing.

So, with any luck, Berlusconi’s bill will die in Parliament and Berlusconi’s party will lose the elections. With a great deal more luck, Berlusconi will finally get what he deserves. At this point, I’d settle for just not having him in government.

Claudia posts this response:

[I said]: “According to today’s news, Italy is at heightened risk of terrorist attacks for the next three months, due to the Olympics … ..snip… … a few days later. The terrorists got what they were after: the new Spanish government withdrew its troops from Iraq.”

Claudia replied: “You state this as if it were a given, but it’s not. One can argue (and I do) that the Madrid attack — which killed fewer than 200 people, by the way, not 400 — was planned months in advance, and the fact that it was carried out two days before the election is more a matter of chance than design.

The date, you recall, was March 11, 911 days after 9/11. The exact date of Spanish elections is decided fairly close to the actual day, so it would have taken a lot of last-minute planning by the terrorists to link the two so closely together. Since some of their bombs didn’t go off, one might suppose they weren’t cutting-edge organizers.

Plus, one can say, the terrorists might have expected an electoral backlash that would have gone AGAINST them, rather than “for” their interests. Plus some pundits say the left was going to win anyway. Plus, and most important, many respected surveys have shown that the reason voters voted as they did was because of the Aznar cover-up after the attack, not the attack itself. Don’t you remember, the government kept insisting the Basque terrorists were responsible, not El Qaeda?”

More Nerves

Feb 5, 2006

A few days ago, there was a Google ad on this page for a security company, whose web site says:

“The 2006 Olympic Games in Torino, Italy will be one of the most watched events in the world this winter. This historic event is also taking place during a time when Italy’s military alliance with the United States has become a source of much attention and concern.

Shortly after the Games, Italy’s national elections will occur. Many officials believe Italy will experience unusually high activism or worse, become the next European terrorist target. As a result, the security team at Vance believes that there are considerable security risks associated with the Games this year.”

Well, they would say so, but… that’s some rather gristly food for thought, nonetheless.

There was also an ad to Dale of Norway, supplying the official sweaters for the US Olympic team. Interesting that somebody didn’t insist on “buy American” for that, though Dale is the best…

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