The dress rehearsal of the 20th winter Olympics opening ceremony is set to get underway in Turin on 8 February amid heightened concerns over security. Around 3,000 volunteers and 250 staff, including 100 dancers and acrobats, will take part in the spectacle, expected to be a slick baroque pageant, that will be broadcast live around the world on 10 February.

The recent wave of protests across the Muslim world sparked off by cartoons published in a Danish newspaper have increased fears about over safety issues around the event and the Scandinavian athletes in particular. According to the daily newspaper La Repubblica, 89.5 million has been spent on security operations so far. Across the city, manholes have been sealed up, rubbish bins substituted for transparent containers and video cameras installed. Around 15,000 police officers are due to patrol the streets during the opening ceremony, and a NATO jet will patrol the skies once the games begin. But so far the only expression of ill-will has come from Italian No-TAV protesters, who caused the path of the Olympic flame to be diverted in the Val di Susa.

Ticket sales for the games have meanwhile reached 700,000, or 85 per cent of seats, accounting for 60 million of the 65 million sales target. Among the events with seats still available are the mens downhill skiing (due to the late release of additional tickets) as well as womens ice hockey, snowboarding and speed skating. A few hundred tickets remain for Fridays opening ceremony in three seat categories costing 250, 500 and 850. Tickets can be bought online at www.torino2006.org/tickets or by calling 039838250, and from 8 February will also be on sale at box offices near the competition venues in Turin.