Friday, February 3, 2012

2002 Once More - Olympics, Park City, and Context After 10 Years

There's a feeling in the air like a big parade had come through town and now you can feel the echoes from it. 2002 was the big show and, 10 years later, you can still sense
a disturbance in the force around here. The venue signs remain in place and they are still cool. And there are Olympic symbols around the area on road signs and bridges and flag pole foundations and many more places.

I know you have memories of the big show and I bet you remember where you were during their run, whether you actually went to a venue or not.

My memories of the Olympics began with efforts that were taken years and years prior to get the bid to become the USA's choice. They then competed internationally to be chosen as the actual host. There was a lot of controversy over the side deals that were done to grease the skids to make it happen. Come to find out that the IOC basically expected that kind of shenanigans, and the games were jeopardized. Then Mitt Romney was drafted to take over leadership of the games and they turned out great.

After Utah got the games awarded, the feds kicked in some money to help build up infrastructure in roads and venue development. Our freeways were under construction for (it seems like) 5 years or more. It was hard to get around the valley at all for a long time.

Of course, the Olympics became further strained, and even more important, based on its timing in history. Of course, the USA was attacked on 9-11 and when you think about it, the Olympics were just months after that. The feds kicked in more money to deal with security issues. It was reported that the Olympic venues were the most secure places in the country. We heard of extraordinary measures that were taken, including having skiing sniper squads stationed up in the mountains.

The olympics were about sports, and there were lots of events happening in Park City area.

My oldest child was barely a teenager, then. The rest were quite young. They each got to see an event. The two oldest kids saw a cross country skiing event at Soldier Hollow and my youngest daughter saw a hockey game. They remember going and they remember the crowds, the excitement, and they know they were there at the Olympics.

The torch run was interesting, too. I took my kids to the torch run as it stopped for a time at a gathering outside of Cougar Stadium. LaVell Edwards was the final torch bearer that brought the torch up to the stage. The MC of the event was a young guy, and asked in a very goofy sort of way if this was the greatest thing that ever happened to him in his life. LaVell handled the question well by saying something like "of all the big things that has happened to him, this was one of them." Dude! The man has a national championship to his credit! What are you thinking? LaVell is a stud.

The relay went through American Fork, and right by my studio, at the time. My wife took the kids to see the torch come through (I had just seen it at BYU the night before and wanted to sleep.) The torch runners that went by our neighborhood were Donny and Marie Osmond. My kids had no idea who they were, but took our word on it that it was a good thing. Later we went to a local car dealership and had our picture taken with one of the torches they had on display. The kids got to hold it and everything. No, it wasn't lit (that I remember).

We went to a few things as a family. The parking lot directly East of KSL studios was the location of a city all its own, including sponsor tents, mini bobsled runs, curling (courts?), food and all kinds of pin trading and stuff. The awards plaza was also there, where they also had music and entertainment. Just the line to get into the plaza took about an hour. The first time we went there, the rock band Creed was the big attraction, and could hear them pretty well just milling about on the plaza. My oldest son was a big fan at the time, so that was a bonus. My oldest daughter competed in the curling event and actually won a silver medal during her competition.

The pin trading was a fun activity. My wife's grandmother was even involved in collecting pins as she worked for Utah Tourism in the Bear Lake area. It's worth seeing this for yourself (once). The green jello pin was a hot item.

We saw cultural activities in the Provo area, too. Would you have guessed that there is an international ice sculpture competition? There was, and we saw it. We were there a little bit later in the morning when it was all done. It was sunny and about 50 degrees out. The sculptures were melting fast and we heard "crash" and "awww" a lot.

On the whole, the Olympics was good for Park City and good for Utah, I think. The area has grown a lot but it is not so overgrown as was feared by some folks, and certainly didn't have the negative impact that compelled our neighbors in Colorado to kill the idea of their being host.

So, we are celebrating 10 years after, and there are folks in town wearing their Roots berets and volunteer's Olympics coats from back in the day. Some of the 2002 athletes have come back to meet people and to be recognized for their accomplishments. I'm interested in seeing some of the activities and they will be re-lighting the Olympic cauldron, too, I understand.

The Salt Lake City Olympics was a great party, gave us great sports moments, and ... it turned out ... became an important global event. The current commemoration isn't the parade, but it is an after-party, and one worth recognizing. It actually happened, and for many of us, will be one of those "where were you when" events.

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