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Sunny August days don’t often inspire thoughts of watching someone ski briskly down a snowy mountain slope or skate around a frozen slab of ice.

But maybe they should. At least for Americans stationed in Europe interested in seeing the next Winter Olympics in person. The Turin, Italy, Games of 2006 are still six months away. But those who wait until winter to buy tickets will most likely be watching on television.

“The earlier the better,” says Emilia Puma, an American representing the State Department’s Olympic efforts in Turin, on when to buy tickets. In fact, tickets in some categories for certain events are already sold out.

Accommodations?

“Hotels just aren’t available around here anymore,” she says. “What you might want to look for are places outside Turin.”

Transportation?

Forget driving in, Puma says: “A nightmare. I would leave the car outside [Turin].”

Driving to somewhere such as Milan and then taking the train could be a good option, she says.

Figuring out the best way to buy tickets might cause some aggravation as well.

The most common way is via the Internet. Those living in Europe can go to an official site in English, Italian and French. The site also has links to other ways those living in Italy can purchase tickets. Tickets can be bought via Visa credit cards. At this time, consumers aren’t buying specific seats, but types of seating.

The catch is that trying to get those tickets sent to an APO address is problematic. APOs carry American zip codes and the site refers purchases by non-Europeans to agencies from their respective countries. For the U.S., that’s Cosport, a company that specializes in putting together complete packages for the Olympics. The packages or buy individual tickets from its Web site, but the prices are higher.

For instance, someone visiting the Italian Web site could purchase a seat for a preliminary game at the women’s hockey venue for 20 euros. At the current government exchange rate, that’s $24.10. But it’ll cost $34 to get that ticket from Cosport, which is allowed to charge more to recover its costs and make some profit. For higher-priced tickets, the difference can be even more. A top-end seat for the opening ceremonies costs 850 euros or $1,024. At Cosport the price is $1,260.

Don’t expect a lot of cheap seats, regardless. Seats to watch preliminary events for biathlon, cross country skiing, curling, freestyle skiing and women’s hockey all start at 20 euros. Similar tickets for alpine skiing, bobsledding and luge are the next cheapest at 25 euros each. Figure skating tickets start at 70 euros each and go as high as 370 euros apiece.

Olympic officials in Turin couldn’t be reached because the office is closed for the country’s traditional August vacation period.

But one solution for those living off base around Europe would be to use their local home address to receive tickets from the Italian site. Another, for those living in Italy, is to buy tickets from a store associated with TicketOne or through a branch of the Sanpaolo banking conglomerate. There are links off the Web site to both groups, in Italian, and each appears to have at least one location near every American military community in Italy.

Stripes reporter Sandra Jontz in Naples contributed to this report.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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