The Italian city of Turin was awarded the 2006 Winter Games on Saturday in the first selection of an Olympic host since the Salt Lake City scandal.
Turin upset the Swiss favorite, Sion, 53-36 in the final vote by the International Olympic Committee and apparently benefited from an anti-Swiss backlash stemming from the Olympics' worst corruption case.
The Italian delegation broke into cheers as the decision was announced.
"For us it was only a dream, now it's a reality," Turin Mayor Valentino Castellani told the assembly. "It's hard to be convinced to be completely awake."
Turin bid chief Evelina Cristillin beamed and made a thumbs-up sign to supporters in the hall as she took a seat at the top table to sign the host city contract.
In a twist of fate, Cristillin sat next to Marc Hodler, the Swiss IOC executive board member who probably cost Sion victory.
Sion, considered to have the best bid on technical grounds, was punished by IOC resentment toward Hodler, the Swiss IOC executive board member who escalated the Olympic scandal with allegations of endemic corruption.
Four other candidates in the all-European race were eliminated earlier when a special panel reduced the field: Helsinki, Finland; Klagenfurt, Austria; Poprad-Tatry, Slovakia; and Zakopane, Poland.
The 2006 race was dominated by the fallout from the six-month-old vote-buying scandal surrounding Salt Lake's winning bid for the 2002 Games.
The scandal plunged the IOC into the biggest crisis of its 105-year history, leading to the ouster of 10 members and prompting changes in the bid and selection process for 2006.
The race came down to a contest between two sharply different candidates Sion, a provincial capital of 26,000 in the heart of the Swiss Alps, and Turin, the northern Italian industrial city of 2.2 million.
Turin, making its first bid, will bring the Winter Olympics to Italy for the first time since the 1956 Games in Cortina D'Ampezzo.
The result marked the third defeat for Sion, which failed in previous bids for the 1976 and 2002 Winter Games. The last time Switzerland staged the games was in 1948 in St. Moritz.
As a result of the Salt Lake scandal, IOC members were banned from visiting the 2006 bid cities, and the voting process was changed to allow a "selection college" to narrow the field to two.
IOC officials said the new rules were designed to make the system "fireproof" against any form of corruption or improper influence.
While Sion had been the front-runner from the start, delegates said Turin made a strong impression in Friday's presentation to the IOC assembly.
In a head-to-head final between Sion and Turin, the Swiss feared the vote could be swung by the strong Italian lobby in the IOC and possible bloc support from other Latin countries.
The ban on member visits has been seen as an advantage for Sion, whch played host to more than 60 IOC members during the 2002 bid. The Swiss said they had a vastly improved bid this time.
The selection college that chose the two finalists was composed of eight members elected by the IOC, including former Olympic champions Jean-Claude Killy of France and Valery Borzov of Ukraine.
The international federations appointed Joseph Fendt of luge, while Spain's Feliciano Mayoral represented the national Olympic committees.
Three athletes' representatives were named to the panel: Prince Albert of Monaco, who competed in bobsled and is now an IOC member; Tomas Gustafson of Sweden, a speedskater; and cross-country skier Vladimir Smirnov of Kazakstan.
IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, former FIFA president Joao Havelange of Brazil and Japanese IOC member Chiharu Igaya filled out the panel.
Hodler did not speak during Sion's presentation, which revolved around a film featuring a "modern Heidi" searching for five golden rings in the Swiss Alps.
"We changed our tactic from the last time," Sion bid president Adolf Ogi said. "We underlined not the technical side but the emotional side of our bid."
Turin made a businesslike presentation, emphasizing it is the largest city in the arc of the Alps. Bid leaders said Turin can provide all the amenities of a big city, while offering easy access to world class mountain venues.
Helsinki, whose bid included Alpine ski events in Lillehammer, Norway, had hoped to get the Winter Games for Finland after five previous attempts.
Klagenfurt proposed a "games without borders" concept that included sites in Austria, Slovenia and Italy.
The Slovak and Polish bids were never given a chance, with delegates saying they need more time to develop their economies and infrastructure.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
© 1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.