Slow Food Terra Madre Opening Ceremony

We are pleased to present our experiences of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Slow Food Terra Madre conference in Turin, Italy. It was held the evening of October 24 at the Palasport Olimpico, also known as the Palaisozaki, after the Japanese architect’s name – Arata Isozaki. This is in the Santa Rita district of Turin, just east of the Olympic stadium. It was built for the 2006 Olympics and hosted the ice hockey events. With seating for over 12,000, it is an impressive venue!

We arrived early after registering at the main Slow Food event center and waited for the gates to open. We quickly learned to make use of these periods of waiting and not be impatient that things didn’t run on an American schedule. Introducing ourselves, we quickly made some new friends and were once again impressed with the dedication, creativity and just plain genius with which so many people were applying themselves in their search of how to answer Slow Food’s directive of “Good, clean and fair” food for all. This opening ceremony was for and about the international delegates but was open to the public.
Once the gates opened, we checked our luggage into the baggage claim area and made a line for the latest in a long line of cappuccinos (cappuccini in Italian!), as we had been awake for the better part of 30 hours at this point. We had arrived in Milan at 7:30am that day after a combined flight of almost 13 hours, and wouldn’t check into our hotel until after the opening ceremony. A long but exhilarating day!

People were encouraged to dress in their native clothing, and it was a grand sight to see, with the entrance being made coming down the long stairs into the delegates seating area. The surrounding stands were soon filled almost to capacity with the public, who was very enthusiastic. The energy and excitement was contagious and had the whole arena buzzing.

After the opening welcome speech by the Mayor of Turin, the parade of flags commenced. A delegate from each nation present presented their native flag and was seated in honor above the podium. 95 countries were present this year! Afterwards there were many presentations and speeches about the different directions Slow Food has moved, as well as live poetry acted out by Nobel literature prizewinner and playwright Dario Fo, live music by Italian trumpeter, singer, composer and arranger Roy Paci. Both Vandana Shiva and Alice Waters presented their thoughts to thunderous acclaim. The United Nation’s FAO Director-General José Graziano Da Silva gave praise and strength to the Slow Food movement, acknowledging the impact it has had worldwide and noting that governments and advocates for sustainable food are turning to Slow Food for help in writing proposals and drafting legislation.

This was a fine promise of things to come, that was more than fulfilled in the next 4 days!

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