Fun and games

In many for­mer Olympic host cities, there are still plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­joy the action, re­ports Tiana Tem­ple­man

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

COM­PANY ex­ec­u­tive thun­ders down an ice corridor at 100km/h in Turin while a dare­devil plumber swings off Mu­nich’s Olympic sta­dium and an ac­coun­tant trains with an Olympic ski coach in Salt Lake City. There is no need to be a world-class ath­lete to ex­pe­ri­ence what it feels like to clean and jerk 100kg, bob­sled like a pro, fly through the air like Alisa Cam­plin or take your place on an Olympic medal dais.

Af­ter the medals are awarded and the ath­letes have gone home, many host cities keep the ex­cite­ment of the Olympic flame burn­ing. At the fol­low­ing venues any­one can ex­pe­ri­ence the magic of their own Olympic mo­ment.

Utah Olympic Park, Salt Lake City, US: When freestyle ski coach Jerry Grossi in­sists he can teach skiers to per­form back­flips in one day, I know he is not talk­ing about me. He pauses to give Aus­tralian ski sen­sa­tion Jac­qui Cooper a few tips then re­turns to our con­ver­sa­tion. Of course they won’t be per­fect,’’ he dead­pans as she whooshes grace­fully down the jump.

The first time some­one gets air’ they ei­ther love it or it scares them to death.’’

The train­ing splash pool favoured by Olympic cham­pi­ons such as Jac­qui is also used for pub­lic freestyle camps where any­one can give the sport a try. Skiers as young as six wait their turn at the top of the small­est spe­cial­ist freestyle ramp, known as a kicker, be­fore zip­ping down it and splash­ing into a pool.

Camps de­signed to suit ev­ery level of abil­ity range from half a day to five days. Pro­fes­sional skiers put on a 30-minute freestyle aerial show at 1pm ev­ery Satur­day dur­ing sum­mer.

To ex­pe­ri­ence the thrill of freestyle ski­ing without get­ting wet there is Xtreme Zip, the world’s steep­est zi­pline, which runs along the K120 ski jump­ing hill. The padded red zi­pline seats look re­lax­ing apart from the fact they are trav­el­ling at 80km/h.

Torino Olympic Park, Turin, Italy: At the beginning of the bob­sled run at Torino Olympic Park, it seems that every­one screams for Taxi Bob, the pro­fes­sional driver who takes vis­i­tors for hair-rais­ing rides down the Ce­sana Olympic track.

Here the cool Ital­ian driv­ers re­tain their rock-star al­lure, even when calm­ing ner­vous pas­sen­gers who emerge at the other end ex­hil­a­rated and buzzing with adrenalin (for most of them one trip is not enough).

Ad­ven­tur­ous types keen to ride solo un­der race con­di­tions can join bob­sled­ding greats such as Clau­dio Cavosi and Fabrizio Tosini for driv­ing lessons with a dif­fer­ence sev­eral times a year. Pack­age deals com­bin­ing a ride with Taxi Bob and en­try to the ice skat­ing rink are good value.

For pure fun without the fear fac­tor there is snow­tub­ing, which in­volves slid­ing down a ski jump land­ing ramp on a tyre with hand­holds. At (about $19.50) an hour this ac­tiv­ity pro­vides plenty of af­ford­able thrills.

Team sports are avail­able, al­though vis­i­tors who join a game of broom­ball will likely pro­vide lo­cals with a few laughs; imag­ine play­ing field hockey on ice with a broom but no skates. Any­one is wel­come to join the fun, al­though be­gin­ners spend more time sweep­ing the floor with their be­hinds than sweep­ing the ball into goal.

Mu­nich Olympic Park, Ger­many: When Mu­nich hosted the games in 1972 there was no ab­seil­ing off the sta­dium, but this is just one of the ac­tiv­i­ties now on of­fer at this re­vi­talised Olympic park.

Vis­i­tors with a head for heights can drop 40m from the sta­dium roof or clam­ber over it on a climb­ing tour. I am told the 8ha roof built to sym­bol­ise the Alps of­fers fan­tas­tic views to Bavaria and be­yond, but de­cide to take their word for it.

For­tu­nately vis­i­tors such as my­self, who like keep­ing both feet on the ground, can opt for less dar­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Walk­ing around the 80ha site costs noth­ing and pro­vides the per­fect ex­cuse to stop for a re­fresh­ing bier along the way. A mod­est se­cures a place on a 90-minute sight­see­ing tour filled with Olympic mem­o­ries, but those with lim­ited time may pre­fer the self­guided MP3 au­dio op­tion as it by­passes the need to wait for an English-speak­ing guide.

The hour I plan to spend at Mu­nich Olympic Park turns into three due to the stun­ning ar­chi­tec­ture, which re­mains sur­pris­ingly con­tem­po­rary and en­hances, rather than dom­i­nates, the site. An Ar­chitec-Tour, which must be booked in ad­vance, gives vis­i­tors a true ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the cut­ting-edge ar­chi­tec­ture.

It seems the more you dis­cover about this fa­cil­ity, the more amaz­ing it be­comes. Mu­nich Olympic Park was al­ways con­sid­ered ahead of its time and with the range of ac­tiv­i­ties on of­fer, this looks set to con­tinue.

Seoul Olympic Park, South Korea: The first thing vis­i­tors to Seoul Olympic Park see when they emerge

Peace Gate: Seoul Olympic Park, South Korea from the sub­way sta­tion is the Olympic flame, still burn­ing at the cen­tre of the World Peace Gate.

The Torch of Peace, as it is now called, sums up this post-Olympic ex­pe­ri­ence, de­signed to be shared. It seems ev­ery struc­ture, ac­tiv­ity and art­work cel­e­brates hu­man­ity and the Olympic com­mu­nity spirit.

More than 200 sculp­tures are scat­tered through Seoul Olympic Park, one of the top five sculp­ture parks in the world, and at its cen­tre is the SOMA Mu­seum of Art, which houses avant-garde video in­stal­la­tions and more tra­di­tional works pay­ing trib­ute to Cou­bertin, the founder of the mod­ern Olympic games.

Nearby is the state-of-the-art Seoul Olympic Mu­seum, which is far more ex­cit­ing than it ap­pears from its ex­te­rior and is sel­dom crowded.

This is a bonus as there is vir­tu­ally no queue­ing in the Sports Ex­pe­ri­ence Hall, which re­sem­bles a space-age video ar­cade with ma­chines that sim­u­late Olympic sports. Here it is pos­si­ble to lift 100kg in a vir­tual clean and jerk without rais­ing a sweat.

Tourists who dis­cover the green oa­sis that is Seoul Olympic Park of­ten re­turn, but most vis­i­tors are lo­cal. Chil­dren play hide and seek in the zelkova tree for­est and chase each other across vast green lawns, while par­ents chat and pre­pare lunch. Don’t be sur­prised if you are in­vited to join them; the Olympic ideal of global friend­ship lives on.

Syd­ney Olympic Park, Aus­tralia: Run­ning down the ath­letes’ tun­nel at ANZ Sta­dium to the sound of 80,000 peo­ple cheer­ing is an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Even though it is a record­ing and I am no Olympic cham­pion, the wall of sound still makes my legs pump faster.

A trip to Syd­ney Olympic Park is a pa­tri­otic and some­times emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence for most Aus­tralians, es­pe­cially for those of us who missed out in 2000.

When the guide on our sta­dium tour de­scribes the elec­tric at­mos­phere dur­ing Cathy Free­man’s 400m fi­nal, it is all I can do not to shed a tear about not be­ing there.

Away from the sport­ing field we play at be­ing VIPs in the mem­bers’ lounge and visit re­stricted ath­lete ar­eas for a be­hind-the-scenes glimpse (and smell) of the locker rooms, be­fore run­ning down the ath­letes’ tun­nel.

An Olympic medal dais awaits at the end for photo op­por­tu­ni­ties, where every­one wins gold. Seg­ways (elec­tric self-bal­anc­ing stand-up scoot­ers) are used for zippy Olympic Park tours that are great fun, al­though most vis­i­tors have to con­quer the urge to speed.

Out­side ANZ Sta­dium, the fa­mous Olympic caul­dron, since turned into a foun­tain, flashes by, as does the Syd­ney Aquatic Cen­tre. This venue hosted the swim­ming and its Olympic fa­cil­i­ties re­main, along with a ter­rific kids’ play area with wa­ter­slide, rapid river ride and spurt­ing vol­ca­noes.

The park’s self-guided bike sa­fari — which in­cludes bike hire, a Lis­ten Live self-guided au­dio tour, bot­tled wa­ter, cof­fee and maps — also cov­ers en­try to the aquatic cen­tre.

It is the per­fect spot to re­lax and chill out af­ter re­liv­ing the ex­cite­ment of the best games ever’’.

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