Olympic Winter Games “totally changed” image of Turin

Hosting the 2006 Olympic Winter Games “totally changed” the image of Turin and prompted an upsurge in tourism, according to Roberto Daneo, the former Director of Authority Relations at the Turin 2006 Organising Committee.

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© IOC / Christian Klaue President Bach at the Super Sprint World Championship Women’s finals in Hamburg.

Prior to 2006, Turin was largely regarded as an industrial city, rather than a holiday destination, but the success of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games helped change that perception, while infrastructural improvements – including road and rail links and the expansion of the city’s airport – also led to Turin establishing itself as a tourism and business hub.

“From the very beginning we were focused on what kind of legacy we could deliver to the city and the wider area,” explains Daneo. “There were the hard legacies, such as the infrastructure improvements – including roads, the Olympic Villages and the sports facilities – and then there were the soft legacies, such as tourism, the image of the city and education.”

Daneo says that prior to the Games in 2006, Turin was often overshadowed by other major cities in Italy.

“Until we won the Games bid 15 years ago, Turin was not considered a tourism destination in Italy,” he says. “There were many more famous cities, such as Rome, Venice, Florence and Milan, which were attracting more tourists than Turin, which was more considered an industrial city.

“Things changed after the Games because Turin is now the fourth most visited city in Italy, and in some cases, such as during the Christmas holidays, it is even the second most popular city after Rome.”

Indeed, visitor numbers rose in the Piedmont region rose immediately following the Games, increasing from 3.3 million in 2006 to 4.3 million in 2012.

“The number of tourist arrivals has grown consistently from 2006 to 2012, with almost a third more visitors in just six years,” says Daneo. “This has come during a difficult economic time for most of Europe, which has had an impact on tourism in general, so that makes it even more impressive.”

According to Daneo, Turin was able to use the worldwide exposure of the Games to highlight its rich cultural heritage and thus shed its industrial image.

“The image of Turin has totally changed since the Games, especially in Italy,” he says. “Turin was not considered a cultural city, despite having a very rich cultural heritage, with beautiful Baroque buildings, which are the backbone of the city’s architecture. I think it’s now recognised as an attractive city, which was not the case until recently.”

Daneo has little doubt that Turin’s new status as a tourist destination is directly attributable to the success of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games

“Until the Games, no one would really consider spending a leisure weekend in Turin, but now things have changed,” he says.

As Sochi prepares to host the 2014 Winter Games, the popular Russian resort will be looking to follow Turin’s example by using the exposure and infrastructural improvements the Games have brought to establish itself as a year-round tourist destination.