WHY TURIN? Politics and a popular Alpine ski resort helped carry Italy's fourth-largest city to victory over Sion, Switzerland, in the July 1999 host-selection vote. Sion was favored until Swiss IOC member Marc Hodler alienated fellow members in December 1998 by alleging that some had accepted bribes for their support in past Olympic host votes. (Hodler's allegations later proved to be true.) Turin, an industrial city (home to Fiat and Ferrari) at the foot of the Italian Alps, played up the appeal of its ski venue, Sestriere, and successfully argued that Italy was overdue to host its first Games since the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.
WHAT'S NEW? More events than ever, including freestyle skiing, will be held at night. In a new event called snowboard cross, packs of boarders will race over a cross-country course. Figure skating will use a revamped, complicated scoring system that breaks routines into many separately judged elements. By randomly eliminating three judges for each skater's routines, the new system should also prevent a repeat of the judge-rigging scandal that marred the pairs competition in Salt Lake City in 2002.
WHAT'S THE U.S. OUTLOOK? American athletes are coming off their best Winter Olympics in history (34 medals in 2002). This time they won't have the home advantage, but the outlook is far from bleak: Last winter American athletes had their most successful pre-Olympic season ever, winning world championship or World Cup medals in nine of the 12 Winter Games sports. Nearly all of America's top performers from '02 are back, including skier Bode Miller and speed skaters Apolo Ohno and Jennifer Rodriguez, who won two medals each in Salt Lake.