Let the Games Begin: Winter Olympics Start Feb. 10 in Turin

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I'm Steve Ember.  And I'm Faith Lapidus with Explorations in VOA Special English.  Today we tell about the Twentieth Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.

The Winter Olympic Games open February tenth.  They will continue until February twenty-sixth.  An estimated two thousand five hundred athletes and two thousand five hundred officials from about eighty-five countries will take part in the games.

The athletes will compete to win medals in eighty-four events.  They will test their skills in seven winter sports: biathlon, bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, luge, skating and skiing.  More than six hundred judges and other officials will supervise the games. About ten thousand reporters and media operators will report on the games. Thousands of people will attend, and millions more around the world will watch the Olympics on television.

This will be the twentieth time the Olympic Winter Games have been held.  The last Winter Games were held in Salt Lake City, Utah in the United States in two thousand two. The next Winter Olympic games will take place in Vancouver, Canada in two thousand ten. The goal of the Olympic games is to bring people together in peace to honor universal moral ideas and the Olympic spirit.  The modern Olympics are named after games held in ancient times. The games are said to have started in the ancient Greek city of Olympia, more than two thousand seven hundred years ago.

The first thirteen Olympic games were foot races during celebrations to honor the Greek god, Zeus.  Winners were honored with a crown of olive leaves placed around their heads. Greece continued to hold the games every four years for the next one thousand years.  The ancient Romans banned them in the fourth century when they ruled Greece.  The Romans also destroyed the Olympic centers and sports fields.

The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece in eighteen ninety-six. Athletes from eight countries competed in ten sports.  A French diplomat, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, had proposed a world celebration of sports like the ancient games in Greece.

The purpose was to help athletes develop strength and values through competition. And the international event would provide a way for athletes of all nations to become friends.

Today, the Olympics are the world's most famous sports event.  The five rings of the Olympic sign represent this athletic friendship. They represent the linking, through sports, of five parts of the world: Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas.  The colors of the rings are blue, yellow, black, green and red.  Under the rings is the Olympic saying in Latin: "Citius, Altius, Fortius." In English, the words mean: "Swifter, Higher, Stronger."

(MUSIC:Olympic Fanfare)

The Turin Winter Olympics will include eighty-four events in seven sports.  Some of the sports are well known, like skiing and skating.  Others, like luge, are not.  Luge is the French word for sled. Luge athletes race by lying on their backs on sleds with steel runners. The athletes control the sleds with their feet as they speed down a track covered with ice. They compete to see who is the fastest. The sleds can reach speeds of up to one hundred thirty kilometers an hour.

Curling is another sport that is not as well known.  It began in Scotland. Each athlete on a four-member team slides a stone across the ice toward a circular target. The target is about two meters wide.  The object is to slide the stone to the center of the target.

Biathlon was added to the Winter Olympic Games in nineteen sixty.  This sport began as a method for survival. Northern Europeans skied to hunt for food. Later they skied with weapons to defend their countries. Today, biathlon is considered a combination of two sports: cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.

Snowboarding became an Olympic sport in nineteen ninety-eight.  In this sport, the athletes' feet are attached to a board as they move quickly on the snow.  In one event, snowboarders slide up the sides of a huge hole built especially to perform jumps.  The athletes are judged on their skills and how high they jump.

Olympic athletes spend many hours training for the games. This can be very costly. In many countries, the government provides them with special trainers, equipment and economic support.In the United States, Olympic athletes do not receive such support from the government.  Instead, they depend on help from private groups and companies, or from the United States Olympic Committee.  The committee supervises all activities of the United States Olympic teams.

The United States Olympic Committee helps gain money to support American athletes who hope to compete in the Olympics.  It does this in several ways.  The committee receives most of its money from private companies. The companies pay the committee for the rights to use the Olympic sign to help sell their products.

The committee also earns money by selling sporting goods, clothing and other products with the Olympic sign.  Television companies also pay the committee for the right to broadcast the Olympic games around the world.

(MUSIC: Olympic Fanfare)

The Olympics have many traditions. For example, a special Olympic flame always burns at the games.  In ancient Olympia, a fire burned for the god Zeus during the Olympic sports competition.  Now, runners carry a torch with the flame from Olympia, Greece to the city where each Olympics is held. The torch for this Winter Olympics was lit during a special ceremony in Olympia in late November.  It was then transported to Rome, Italy. On December eighth, runners began to carry it to the city of Turin.

For the past two months, more than ten thousand runners have taken turns carrying the flame throughout all provinces and territories in Italy. They have carried the flame a distance of about eleven thousand kilometers. The torch will arrive in Turin on February tenth, just in time for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games.

Another Olympic tradition is music. Millions of people around the world who watch the Olympics on television know one song called "Olympic Fanfare."  It was taken from "Bugler's Dream" by Leo Arnaud.  The music was first heard during the nineteen sixty-eight Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble, France.

(MUSIC: Olympic Fanfare)

Some songs were written especially for the games.  This one was first heard at the nineteen eighty-eight Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.  It became a popular hit record for American singer Whitney Houston.

It describes an athlete's feelings toward his or her sport.  The song is called "One Moment In Time."

(MUSIC: One Moment In Time)

Finally, we leave you with music by the famous American songwriter John Williams. He has written music for many recent Olympic games. This song is called "Summon the Heroes." He wrote it for the nineteen ninety-six Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, in the southern United States.

(MUSIC: Summon the Heroes)

This program was written and produced by Jill Moss.  I'm Faith Lapidus. And I'm Steve Ember.  Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Voice of America Special English

Source: Let the Games Begin: Winter Olympics Start Feb. 10 in Turin
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