From "Turin" to "Torino": Olympics Put New Name on the Map

Updated March 6, 2006

Names don't last forever, including those on desktop globes. Changing place-names reflect shifts in world history, whether it's the collapse of the Soviet Union or a decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The city in Italy (map) that's hosting this month's 2006 Winter Olympics is known throughout the English-speaking world—and to speakers of the traditional Piedmontese language of the region—as Turin. But the official name, as far as the Olympics are concerened, is "Torino," in keeping with a decision by the IOC.

Unlike past Olympic venues that went by their English names, the IOC chose the Italian version after the city's leaders lobbied for the change.

While confusing for millions of English speakers, the name swap could eventually make "Torino" part of the standard geographic vocabulary.

For now, English-language media covering the games, which open Friday, are split over what to call the city.

Among those going with "Torino" are television networks NBC and CBS, and the newspaper USA Today.

NBC, which has the U.S. broadcast rights for the games, reportedly thought "Torino" sounded more exotic than "Turin," a name more closely associated with heavy industry than with winter sports.

Other media outlets, including the Associated Press, the New York Times, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, are sticking with the familiar "Turin."

The BBC, which is broadcasting the games in Britain, is billing its programs the "Winter Olympics" to "keep it direct and simple," said Tim English of BBC Sport in London.

Turin Coverage

"Our presenters and commentators will initially be using 'Turin,' because that is how the city is known in the English-speaking world, and [it] will relate better to the vast majority of our viewers," English said.

"However," he added, "we will try as much as possible to bring in the Italian 'Torino' at appropriate moments, in order to reflect the official name of the city and educate the audience."

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