10-year Anniversary of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games

We are excited to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and cannot believe it has been 10 years since our state transformed in to a winter-sport competition arena for some of the world’s best athletes!

We are planning a celebration in conjunction with other businesses and venues involved with the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and wanted to include you in the process. How would you like to celebrate the 10 year anniversary?

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2002: Hays, Hines lost chance by .03 of a second

The following is an excerpt from an article published at ESPN.com on February 17, 2002:

The ugliest words in the Olympics are fourth place. Nothing even comes close, and when fourth place is accompanied by a margin of .03 of a second, fourth place becomes the worst neighborhood in town.

Americans Todd Hays and Garrett Hines finished fourth in the two-man bobsled, extending America’s 46-year medal drought in the sport.

Hays, a former Ultimate Fighting guy, put it on himself to get the Americans back on the podium, but after four runs he and Hines missed by about the length of a finger.

The German team, driven by bobsled legend Christopher Langen (four Olympic medals, two golds) won the gold after entering the final run tied with Switzerland-1. Switzerland-2 won bronze.

“I thought we put a good enough margin on them,” Hays said. “I thought I had a bronze, but you can’t make mistakes against the Germans and the Swiss. I don’t want a lucky win. I want a legitimate win.”

Hays began his Salt Lake Olympic experience with a press conference in which he melodramatically presented a slew of nutritional drinks and foods that could contain banned supplements. The diatribe, directed at the IOC, was his response to the pre-Olympic suspension of his pusher, Pavle Jovanovic.

Sunday, he was more gracious in disappointment than he had been in anger. He blamed the loss on one poor start Saturday and gave credit to bronze-medal driver Martin Annen of Switzerland-2. “If I had two runs yesterday (in the first round) like I had today, I’d be in the medals,” Hays said. “If I wasn’t competing against the Germans and the Swiss, I’d be real proud of them.”

Asked if the Olympics would leave more bad memories than good, Hays said, “No. No. I’m proud to be here.”

Click here to read the entire article.

2002: Americans make great Nordic strides in Utah

The following is an excerpt from an article published at ESPN.com on February 24, 2002:

For the U.S. Nordic skiing teams, close counts, fourth-place finishes are fantastic and best showings ever are cause for celebration. These Americans aren’t quite ready to measure success with medals.

“That day will come,” cross-country skier Justin Wadsworth said.

Maybe soon.

The U.S. Nordic skiing program, which includes biathlon, cross-country and Nordic combined, enjoyed its top Olympic performance in 26 years at the Salt Lake City Games. And it didn’t even medal.

“I don’t think any of us would tell you that we came here just to race and to compete in the Olympics,” biathlete Rachel Steer said. “We really needed to raise the bar, and I think we did. But we’re not satisfied. Hopefully that will drive us through the next four years of training.”

And possibly put them on the podium in 2006.

The United States failed to medal in five Olympic sports at these games: curling, ski jumping and the three Nordic skiing disciplines. The Americans were shut out at Soldier Hollow.

But the Nordic skiing teams had several breakthrough performances on the men’s side, and the athletes hope those results will help propel the programs into the world’s elite group — and into medal contention.

“The men’s teams had huge, huge results,” Steer said. “That’s what we need (kids) to see. If they see it, then we can raise interest and that will give us promise for the future.”

The women fared much worse. Steer had the highest biathlon finish, 31st, and Nina Kemppel had the best cross country finish, 17th.

“(The men) definitely have a head start on us as far as development, but we’re looking really strong for four years from now,” cross-country skier Barbara Jones said. “Eight years from now, I think we can be in the medals. I really believe that.”

Click here to read the entire article.

2002: ‘Miracle’ team scores again, lights caldron

The following is an excerpt from an article published in the Deseret News on February 9, 2002:

The best-kept secret of the 2002 Winter Games opening ceremonies turned out not to be much of a surprise.
Led by captain Mike Eruzione, 18 members of the gold-medal winning 1980 “Miracle on Ice” hockey team grasped the torch to ignite the Olympic caldron atop the south bleachers at Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium on Friday night.

Eruzione, the enthusiastic leader of the team that stunned the Soviet Union 22 years ago, appeared from a door at the base of the caldron wearing a USA hockey jersey with his name and number emblazoned on the back. He stood holding the torch as the crowd erupted in cheers.

A few moments later, the entire team dressed in red, white and blue jerseys emerged to face the crowd. Members then banded together to set the fire in motion at the bottom of the caldron.

The fire slowly spiraled upward 130 feet to the pinnacle of the angular steel-and-glass structure, disappearing at one point before coming to a roaring burn. It looked like a giant flaming icicle that had fallen from the sky.

Lights at the base gave the caldron a blue tinge, while four beams of light streamed skyward from behind.

“That was just something that was kind of mind-boggling for all of us,” said Eruzione, who added the team wondered after the game 22 years ago if anyone was watching them beat the Soviets.

The media and others had speculated for months that the 1980 team, which came together for a reunion at the NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles last week, would put the final torch to caldron at the Salt Lake Games.

Eruzione’s game-winning goal propelled the 1980 team to improbable victory over Russia at Lake Placid, N.Y.

The team beat Finland two days later for the gold medal.

Click here to read the entire article.

2002: Caldron Unveiled

The following is an excerpt from a KSL news report that took place on January 8, 2002:

The Olympic Caldron now stands at the foot of Rice Eccles Stadium awaiting Opening Ceremonies. It’s 117-feet tall, with 738 individually made pieces of glass.

The Caldron was unveiled before dawn Tuesday under a thick layer of morning fog.

No one knows exactly how the cauldron will be lit. That’s top-secret information. But as of Tuesday morning, we now know what the caldron looks like.

News Specialist John Daley reports.

Lean and tall, the stainless steel structure surrounded by sleek glass, is unveiled before an audience of reporters and photographers.

Until it burns one month from now, imagine a bowl bursting with fire, sitting atop glass, with water cascading down.

MITT ROMNEY/SLOC PRESIDENT: “INSIDE THE BOWL AT THE TOP, THERE WILL BE A SHEET OF WATER THAT POURS DOWN THE INSIDE.”

738 pieces of glass made by Western Glass in Ogden, are individually designed. The huge frame was built by Aerodynamics of Clearfield. When it finally rests in its base, it’ll stand 117-feet tall.

SCOTT GIVENS/CREATIVE DIRECTOR, SLOC, “THE CALDRON ITSELF IS ONE OF THE MAGICAL MOMENTS OF OPENING CEREMONIES AND HERE WE ARE A MONTH OUT FROM THE GAMES INSTALLING THE CALDRON.”

The 2-million dollar caldron was designed by a U of U graduate who came up with more than 40 designs before SLOC picked this one.

It’ll burn at the south end of Rice-Eccles Stadium through the winter games and the Paralympics.

SLOC’s commissioned a second, smaller replica of the caldron. That one will stand at the Medals Plaza during the Games.

Click here to read the entire article.

2002: In Praise of the Lone Olympians

The following is an excerpt from an article published on February 21, 2002 at time.com:

Earlier this week, Prawat Nagvajara realized how badly he needed to talk to his coach. His cross-country skiing sprint event was imminent, but he couldn’t get his preparation straight. “My coach is trying to explain to me something about the body building up lactic acid,” he said, looking a little confused. “I have got to get straight what happens, how to warm up, how to prepare. I have to call her again.”

This is not your average Olympian talking, but then Nagvajara, 43, isn’t actually a world-class athlete. The first person ever to represent Thailand at a Winter Games, he was lapped and eliminated from his first event, the 30km, less than a third of the way through. Even in the relatively short time he spent on the Soldier Hollow course, he had time to fall, have the wind knocked out of him, get cramps and lose his goggles.

Nagvajara grew up in Bangkok playing keyboards in a teenage rock band; he was 18 before he ever saw snow. By entering the Olympic Games, he has joined an elite club: he is one of 11 athletes who are the sole representatives of their countries at these Salt Lake City Games. From 20-year-old Shiva Keshavan, who carried the hopes of 1.1 billion Indians with him down the icy luge track (he came in a surprising 33rd out of 50), to slalom skier Gian Matteo Giordani, who will represent the tiny European enclave of San Marino today, none of them entered believing they had a chance to end up on the podium. Some, like South African Alpine skier Alex Heath, think they could strike gold, if only they had the funding (and the training and equipment it buys) of the big national teams. Others are poster children for Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Modern Games, who said that the most important thing in the Olympic Games was not to win, but to take part.

“I love the sport, and the chance to compete at this level is beyond a dream,” says Nagvajara, who has never won a race. “I was so honored, and proud, and shy to carry the Thai flag. I didn’t anticipate the magnitude of the event until then. I had just focused on skiing, on training. At the Opening Ceremony I thought, Oh boy, this is huge.” A professor of engineering at Drexel University in Pennsylvania, Nagvajara was inspired to take up cross country skiing and compete in the Olympics after seeing Kenyan Philip Boit come 92nd, and last, in the 10km classical cross country event at Nagano. Waiting at the finish line for Boit, 20 minutes after he had crossed it himself, was gold medallist Bjorn Dohlie, of Norway. The celebration that ensued, between first and last, became a classic Olympic moment replayed around the world.

“I was so surprised and I was so proud, because an Olympic champion was waiting for me,” Boit said Wednesday. He’s back at these Games having slashed 11minutes off his time. “He told me, ‘Please keep it up. Don’t let these Olympics be the last one.'” Boit returned home to Kenya, named his first-born child Dohlie, and took the champion’s advice to heart. Although a hiccup in sponsorship meant he only got four months training in before Salt Lake, he is now determined to train nonstop for the Turin 2006 games and make it to the top 10.

Click here to read the entire article.

2002: Bakken, Flowers break drought, and a landmark

The following is an excerpt from an article published at ESPN.com on February 19, 2002:

No one had really given Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers a chance. They weren’t even supposed to be the best U.S. team.

“A lot of people saw us as the ‘other’ team,” Flowers said. “We came here to prove people wrong.”

That they did, winning the inaugural women’s bobsled Tuesday night by beating the favored Germans and the much-hyped Jean Racine in the other American sled.

The victory by USA-2 ended a 46-year drought for the United States. America had not won an Olympic bobsled medal since Arthur Tyler took the four-man bronze in 1956 and had not won gold since his brother, Francis, won the four-man in 1948.

There was also an Olympic landmark: The 28-year-old Flowers became the first African-American ever to win a gold medal at a Winter Games.

“Hopefully, this will encourage other African-American boys and girls to give winter sports a try because you don’t see too many of them out there,” she said.

The former college track star once had other Olympic dreams, but two knee operations and ankle surgery dashed those hopes.

“I have truly been blessed to come into this sport and pick it up so fast,” said Flowers said, unable to stop crying. “My goal was to make the Summer Olympics. God had a different plan for me.”

Sandra Prokoff and Ulrike Holzner won the silver in Germany-1 while compatriots Susi Erdmann and Nicole Herschmann took the bronze. Racine and Gea Johnson finished fifth.

“I think I’m going to be looking back at this for a long time,” Racine said.

In December, Bakken and Racine faced the same quandary: Both needed a new brakewoman to push their sleds.

Racine dumped her best friend and chose Johnson, a muscular former heptathlete from Arizona; Bakken took Flowers, who once ran track at UAB and didn’t try bobsledding until after she failed to qualify for the U.S. team headed for the 2000 Summer Olympics.

“I don’t even know what to feel,” Bakken said. “It’s amazing.”

Even more amazing were the 11th-hour antics of Racine after Johnson injured her left hamstring Saturday night. After the race, Racine said she had asked Flowers over the weekend to consider changing sleds. Flowers declined.

The race was gripping from the start. Dressed in matching bodysuits, Bakken and Flowers stood behind their bright red bobsled ready to begin their push to history.

They seemed to forget the two German teams had won every World Cup race in the 2001-02 season. Standing in the start house, they stared through the visors of their black helmets and pounded each other’s fists.

They flew down the track twice at 80 mph, winning with a two-run time of 1 minute, 37.76 seconds. Prokoff and Holzner were second in 1:38.06, with Erdmann and Herschmann at 1:38.29.

Racine and Johnson were timed in 1:38.73. Johnson was in severe pain and crying as she hobbled off the track.

“America was on the podium today, and that was the goal,” a tearful Racine said. “We didn’t win, but America did.”

Racine had been picked as America’s hope, but arrived at the Olympics in disarray. After dominating the World Cup tour for two years with best friend Jen Davidson, she suddenly was unable to win.

She created a stir by replacing Davidson with Johnson, who once served a four-year suspension after testing positive for anabolic steroids. Davidson protested but withdrew her complaint in January shortly after the start of an arbitration hearing. Their friendship, however, was over.

The decision to switch teammates — common among the men — was prompted by the success of the German teams, both featuring big drivers.

Prokoff and Holzner broke the track push record on their first run with a time of 5.32 seconds. Undaunted, Flowers helped propel USA-2 to a 5.31 start record.

That gave the Americans an edge, and Bakken, who lives in Park City, showed her savvy on a track on which she has made hundreds of runs.

Click here to read the entire article.

2002: Gold Rush

The following is an excerpt from an article published in Sports Illustrated on March 4, 2002:

Every one kept looking for someone to blame. The Russians offered conspiracy theories involving the NHL and corporate interests; the South Koreans offered up accusations of incompetent judging; the Canadians first painted themselves the victims of vote-swapping and then, as the hockey tournament wound to a close, offered up the novel idea that the world hates Canadians. Boycotts were threatened, temperatures rose, yet apart from all the fiery complaints lay the not-so-subtle subtext of the 2002 Winter Olympics: The U.S. won medal after surprise medal in Salt Lake City—10 gold and 34 overall, more winter medals than it had won before (13 in 1994 and ’98), in fact—and made the rest of the world look bad. Who’s responsible?

So many, it seems, had a hand in it. Blame New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who chaired the U.S. Olympic Committee commission that in 1989 recommended a massive infusion of money and support for various winter sports, and the USOC, which adopted that recommendation, provided millions over the following decade plus $40 million over the last four years just in preparation for the Salt Lake City Games. Blame the International Olympic Committee, which, in its quest to skew younger and more female, admitted America-friendly sports like aerial skiing in ’94 and snowboarding and women’s hockey in ’98. Blame U.S. winter sports federations, which hired superior coaches from overseas and recruited a rainbow coalition of talented athletes from summer sports and Sun Belt states.

Blame winter sports boosters like former U.S. Olympic luger Bonny Warner, who not only pushed to get skeleton and women’s bobsled admitted to this year’s Games—events that yielded three gold and one silver medal for America—but also lured Alabama native Vonetta Flowers from the running track to the bobsled run and trained her. In Salt Lake City, Flowers, the brakeman for driver Jill Bakken, became the first African-American to win Winter Olympic gold. “My goal was to make the Summer Olympics,” said Flowers, 28, a former long jumper and sprinter, “but God had a different plan for me.”

A different plan is exactly what the USOC needed to turn the U.S. into a Winter Games powerhouse. After American athletes won a paltry six medals at the 1988 Olympics—causing Steinbrenner, a former USOC vice president, to erupt at the team’s futility—U.S. Olympic officials realized that they had to discard conventional wisdom and their reliance on the limited talent pool found in the northern and mountain states. They started thinking and looking outside the box. Flowers, who responded to a bobsled flyer at the 2000 U.S. track and field trials in Sacramento, wasn’t the only Southerner competing in the bobsled in Salt Lake City. Todd Hays, a Texas-born former linebacker for Tulsa, came to the sport after his brother saw a recruiting ad on TV. He drove his four-man sled to a silver medal last week, ending a 46-year U.S. medal drought in men’s races. In the sled with him was brake-man Garrett Hines, an African-American former Southern Illinois tailback raised in Tennessee.

Indeed, the fortnight in Salt Lake City revealed that the Winter Olympics had undergone a face-lift—one that not only removed wrinkles but also added some much needed color. Speed skaters Derek Parra of San Bernardino, Calif., and Jennifer Rodriguez of Miami became the first Mexican-American and Cuban-American, respectively, to win a medal at a Winter Games, and Apolo Ohno’s gold and silver medals in short-track speed skating made him the most decorated Japanese-American Winter Olympian.

Athletes benefited from the USOC’s 20-year-old jobs program, under which Olympic sponsor Home Depot has employed 280 Summer and Winter Games prospects at stores across the country. ( Allstate, Anheuser-Busch and other companies have participated in the program.) Parra worked 20 hours a week in the flooring department at a Home Depot in West Valley City, Utah. His hours were flexible, he received full benefits, and he was paid as if he worked 40 hours. “I got Employee of the Month three times,” he says. “I enjoyed working. It helped me to get away from skating.” All told, the jobs program helped support 14 U.S. athletes who competed in Salt Lake City, including bobsledder Hines, women’s skeleton winner Tristan Gale and three other medalists.

The USOC saw in the sledding events a unique opportunity to boost the American medal count. In January 1999,10 months before skeleton and women’s bobsled were admitted to the Games, the committee gambled that those would be included at Salt Lake City and poured more than $250,000 of support into them. “That one year made the difference,” says Warner, a member of the Athletes’ Advisory Council. “The Germans [a traditional power in sledding events] were caught off-guard. Their federation didn’t fund their women’s bobsled program until 2001, and it was the same for skeleton. We got a huge jump.” Meanwhile, thanks to sponsor money and funds put out by NASCAR driver Geoff Bodine, the U.S. men’s bobsledders took to the track in their fastest sleds ever, designed by Chassis Dynamics in collaboration with Bodine. Perhaps equally important, the U.S. sledding base of operations was shifted from Lake Placid, N.Y., to the new run in Park City. Training was geared not to the European schedule of competition, but to only this run, these 17 days.

Click here to read the entire article.

Remaining aura of the 2002 Olympics

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at DeseretNews.com:

Events unfolding in Vancouver are not so much different from those that took place eight years ago in Salt Lake City … huge crowds, loud cheers, bells ringing, people waiting, street venders hawking their wares and an intense competitive atmosphere. And, even though eight years have passed, the Olympic aura remains here in Utah. Olympic venues are open, training continues for both current and future Olympians, world-class events are continually being held and spectators are welcome.

The Salt Lake Games are also presenting themselves well in Canada.

The jumping hills at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City have become a popular spectator site in winter and summer. Jumpers from all over the world visit the center.

On Tuesday in Canada, the U.S. team broke into the Nordic combined (ski jumping/cross-country) team event for the first time ever in winning a silver. The four U.S. team members — Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick, Bill Demong and Brett Camerota — all train at the Park City venue. Camerota, is fact, is one of nine among the 19 on the U.S. roster listing Park City as a hometown.

There are only two sliding tracks in the U.S. — Lake Placid, N.Y., and the Utah Olympic Park in Park City. So, naturally, it has become a magnet to world-class competitors in bobsled, luge and skeleton.

In 2002, Americans did well on the track. In one of the more emotional wins, Jim Shea Jr. won the gold in the men’s singles skeleton. Two American women won gold and silver in the women’s event.

Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers of the U.S. won the gold in the women’s two-person bobsled, and the U.S. won silver and bronze in the four-person men’s bobsled.

In the luge, Brian Martin and Mark Grimmette won the silver in the two-person event.

And, away from the competition, there was the Olympic camaraderie, similar to what is happening now in Vancouver. The city streets here were packed with people who came on trains, planes, cars, buses and taxi cabs. They came with pins to trade, signs to hold, tickets for “their sport” and an excitement Utah had not seen before — and may never see again.

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Olympic Culture: Pin Trading

Utah Olympic ParkPin trading was part of the experience of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Here is an excerpt from a CNN.com article on the passion of pin trading:

Doug Todd was among old friends. Just outside one of the security checkpoints to the Main Press Center, he was happily chatting with anyone who came up to him looking at his flair-laden vest.

Todd and eight other people had set up a makeshift pin trading area. I wasn’t a very good trader. I had a few CNN.com pins my colleague Thom Patterson had suggested I take. Most of the traders were disappointed because they are crazy about Olympic pins and I didn’t have any of those. So I gave them mine, concluding that even if they didn’t want one (only one was enthusiastic about getting one), well then, they could do what they do and get something good in exchange.

Todd said this was his 12th Olympics; he has been to every one since Los Angeles, including the Winter Games.

He waxed existentially about his hobby and the happiness it brings him. “The destination is your collection, but it’s the journey,” he said. “Like life, the journey is the people you meet and the memories you create as you build you collection.”

Dan Baker, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, said he was amazed by the spectacle of the Games and he seemed to be having a good time, despite the heat. Camped underneath a purple umbrella, the bare-footed Baker traded pins with tourists, athletes and volunteers. The pins for these Olympics – his 13th – are fantastic, he said.

“Trading has been great,” he said. “Everybody who is anybody is here and they all seem to have pins. And they are all beautiful pins.”

Like Todd, Louie Barbosa has been collecting pins since 1984. He said there were about 30 people who had come from Los Angeles to Beijing to swap stories and pins. He asked several times if I had a pin that said Beijing on it. That seemed to be the prominent question today.

Click here to read the entire article.