Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Salt Lake 2002 - Ten Year Anniversary of the Winter Olympics

Olympic flame burns in Salt Lake City, February 2002

Can you believe it has been ten years since they lit the cauldron for the Salt Lake City winter games?  Today, that cauldron will be re-lit to commemorate the anniversary.  Where were you ten years ago during the Olympics?  Were you watching them on TV?  Were you lucky enough to be there?

When Salt Lake was selected as an Olympic city after years of proposals and hard work by the bid committee, it was a day of celebration!  I went downtown for the bid announcement party, and we held our breath while then IOC-head Juan Antonio Samaranch awarded the bid.  When he read "...the city of Salt Lake City," the whole crowd erupted into applause and cheers.  I figured I had several years to save up for a ticket, and there was no way I was going to miss out on this once in a lifetime experience.  

I had always dreamed of going to the Olympics, and since early in my life it became evident I wouldn't go as an athlete, having them in my own backyard provided the perfect opportunity.  With a wonderful blend of cultural and athletic events, pre-Olympic test events, free and low-priced events, it seemed very easy to take part in this amazing international experience.  The winter games in Salt Lake came just months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, and there was some question as to whether or not the games should take place.  How glad I am that the world had this opportunity to come together in sport and camaraderie.  It helped bring us back to life after those dark days in September.

Building decor provided the "look" of the Games.

My children were small, so I was unable to volunteer for the Games.  The time commitments for volunteers was significant.  However, I learned there were three ways to be an Olympic torchbearer.  Nominating essays were considered by the sponsors (Chevy and Coca-Cola), and they each selected a third of the torchbearers.  The remaining torchbearers were selected by the Olympic committee in Salt Lake. I wrote an essay nominating my husband, and he was selected as a torchbearer by Coca-Cola.  The great advantage to this was, Coke paid for his torch, so we didn't have to buy it!  Thanks, Coca-Cola!

Greg gets ready to carry the torch.

Early in the morning, my husband scraped snow off our little Hyundai Excel and left to meet the shuttle that would take him to his spot to carry the torch.  That left me with cameras and kids in tow to meet him at the appointed stretch of road where he would get to run.  It was a chaotic but exciting morning.  We had many friends and family members come to see him run.

Lighting the torch.

Fortunately, a nice security person let me cross a bridge they had closed for the torch run (my plight of running late while carrying kids and posters and camera bags apparently tugged at his sympathy), and we made it to our spot before Greg arrived.

Carrying the torch - moment of triumph

I had gone to see the torch relay go through Salt Lake City in 1996 on the way to the summer games in Atlanta, and it was really exciting to be a part of it on February 8, 2002.  My husband was surrounded by people after his short leg of the relay who wanted to get photos and talk to him.  We had great family support, and also met people from all over the world.  I remember talking to a young couple from the Czech Republic who wanted to take a picture of him.  It was a taste of the minor celebrity experiences he would have throughout the games when he wore his torchbearer jacket.  We even got interviewed during the USA vs. Germany women's hockey game and they broadcast the interview over the large video screens in the arena. If you'd like to read Greg's first-person account of carrying the torch, click here. 

If you are one of those who has a volunteer jacket or a Roots beret from the 2002 Winter Olympics, now is the time to dust them off and wear them on the streets as we celebrate the anniversary of a wonderful sporting event and world party held right in our own backyard.  Stay tuned for more about the things we did during the Olympics in 2002!

Salt Lake City is hosting some anniversary celebration events.  Although the public is not invited to the lighting of the cauldron, there will be a free sports festival on Saturday, February 18 at the Gateway in downtown Salt Lake.  For more information about the anniversary events, click here.

1 comment:

  1. What a great post. I had no idea that Greg ran with the torch or that you were the one that nominated him. I was down at Dixie for my 1st year of college thus not really getting to do anything with the olypmics.