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Olympic ideal not burning bright in Italy

  • Story Highlights
  • Football and Euro 2008 completely dominates sports coverage
  • Big issues surrounding torch relay did not reach front pages
  • Challenge for Italian journalists to get public interested in wider Olympic stories
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By Francesco Vecchi for Mediaset
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Editor's note: CNN's global network of affiliates will be providing dispatches from their countries on the Olympics. In this report, Mediaset report from Italy.

(CNN) -- The debate about the Olympics in China hasn't had much impact in Italy.

They love football, but so far the Olympics hasn't caught many Italians' imagination.

Hot themes such as boycotting the Games never really made it to the front pages here, and there were no protests or episodes of violence that were seen on the streets of Paris and London when the Olympic torch came through those cities.

It is true that this time the Olympic torch didn't touch Italian soil as it did before Athens 2004 but still the main feeling here is of a general disinterest.

This may be because Italians are interested in football more than in any other sport, and the other big event of the summer, Euro 2008, is much more relevant from a media's point of view than the Olympic Games.

Mediaset will be there in Beijing of course with four journalists in the field, but at the moment we're not particularly pushing them with "battage" or any other preliminary coverage.

In Italy, China is still perceived as a very far away place and there is a quite blurred idea of what the Olympics may mean to the Chinese people.

It is hard to predict the effect the Games will have over the commercial relations and geo-political equilibrium between western countries and "the Celestial Empire."

Even so, there is something decadent in the way our sports media has had to concentrate on particular stories related to fencing, swimming, rowing, or any other sport that Italians excel in, in order to maintain their share of viewers from the general public.

Because of this, we have neglected to cover the discussions on the general and historical context of where the Games will take place. In some way, this is a kind of betrayal toward theChinese population.

China is focusing on Beijing 2008 as an event of global interest and the place where the rest of the world will see what China is able to do.

The Chinese people seem to be whole-heartedly supporting the Games, but there is the issue about their freedom to criticize their political system and own personal freedoms.

The Beijing Games then is not just for sport's sake, and it's a difficult task western journalists face to let the rest of the world understand its significance.

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