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Utah plans celebrations for 10th anniversary of 2002 Winter Olympics

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 30 2011 3:31 p.m. MST

The Salt Lake City skyline is lit with Olympic banners on building and the medals plaza in the foreground on Jan. 29, 2002.

Tom Smart, Deseret News archives

SALT LAKE CITY — The 10th anniversary of Utah's Winter Olympics will be celebrated in February with a variety of events, including a free sports festival and a special "Stars on Ice" show.

"We all came together in unity, the wonderful citizens of the state, the marvelous volunteers, the support from the business and political community, all to welcome the world," Fraser Bullock, 2002 Winter Games chief operating officer, said Wednesday.

He announced that Utahns will be able to relive those memories beginning Feb. 8, the same date the Opening Ceremonies were held, with the relighting of the Olympic cauldron at Rice-Eccles Stadium. 

But the big day for marking the 10-year anniversary will be Feb. 18.

Starting at 10 a.m. that Saturday morning, a free Olympic sports festival will be held at the Gateway entertainment and shopping complex downtown, including athlete demonstrations and exhibits promoting the upcoming 2012 Summer Games in London.

That evening, the "2002 Stars on Ice" show will be held at EnergySolutions Arena and include highlights from the Salt Lake Games. Tickets will cost $30 to $125, money that will be used to help pay for the celebration activities, Bullock said.

Sponsors are also being sought to cover the estimated $300,000 to $350,000 price tag, Bullock said. Salt Lake County is the first government entity to contribute, giving $25,000, he said. Deseret Media Companies, parent company of the Deseret News and KSL, is the lead media partner.

Mitt Romney, who served as chief executive officer of the Games and is now running for president, has been invited to the celebration, Bullock said.

"He's got other things going on, but we are hopeful he will be able to attend."

Olympic athletes will be on hand for the celebrations. Wednesday, two medalists from 2002 — mogul skier Shannon Bahrke and speed skater Derek Parra — recalled their experiences.

"It was such a magical time here," Parra said, "also, a time of uncertainty and a time of hope. The country had just come off of the Sept. 11 attack of 2001."

Bahrke said she'd dreamed of being on the U.S. Olympic team as a student at the University of Utah. 

"I'll never forget walking through the stadium and thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I want to represent our country and walk into this stadium, the Opening Ceremonies, and be an Olympian,'" she said. 

Other communities that hosted Olympic venues, including Park City and Kearns, are already planning their own commemorations, Bullock said. Information on all of the activities is available at www.saltlake2002.com, he said.

"When I look back 10 years, I think I was holding my breath a little bit, just wondering if everything was going to work," Bullock recalled.

The anniversary, he said, gives the community the opportunity to recall their achievements.

"People were proud of that time, where we could show the world the true character of Utah and the wonderful people here," Bullock said, recalling that in the eyes of the international sports community, "Salt Lake and Utah set an Olympic record for friendliness."

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com

Twitter: dnewspolitics

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