A 'divine hand' in Games?

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 2 2002 11:49 a.m. MDT

PROVO — Fears that Salt Lake City's Olympic Games would carry the "Mo-Lympics" moniker appear to have faded into a gold-medal sunset.

Olympic planners once threw a champagne toast to quell a notion that Salt Lake's Games were overly influenced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On Tuesday, though, a top Olympic chief who also is a member of the church, effused about the "divine hand of assistance" during the 17-day event.

"During the Games I am certain, absolutely certain, we had a divine hand with us," said Fraser Bullock, president and chief executive officer of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

"There were many instances where we received assistance beyond our capabilities."

Bullock, who rose from chief financial officer to CEO after fellow church member Mitt Romney quit to run for governor of Massachusetts, threw public-relations cautions to the wind Tuesday at Brigham Young University's weekly devotional.

To hear Bullock talk, you'd never know there was any concern about Salt Lake City's Games, once tarnished by the so-called bribery scandal, being branded as the Mormon Olympics.

Bullock, a graduate of the LDS Church-owned private school, reminded students that early church leader Brigham Young made this proclamation to Utah's pioneers: "Kings and emperors and the noble and wise of the Earth will visit us here."

"During the Games we had over 140 dignitaries from around the world, in addition to our own president, vice president and almost all of his Cabinet," Bullock said.

In a church conference a few months after the Games, Bullock recalled, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley said that "we have witnessed the fulfillment of that prophecy in these recent days."

"In my opinion," said Bullock, who also gave an Olympic torch to the school, "a change has occurred around the world regarding the perception of the church, the reverberations from which we will not fully comprehend for years to come."

Bullock told students the weather was near-perfect from the morning of opening ceremonies until the last firework.

"During 17 days, we showcased the majestic, white mountains and deep blue skies of Utah," he said. "We could not have scripted better weather. It made a fundamental difference to the outcome of our Games."

Organizers were particularly worried about a wicked windstorm from the west that was forecast to hit Rice-Eccles Stadium "right at the heart" of closing ceremonies, he said.

"Winds are very problematic," he said. "They would hinder the dinosaurs, you know, Donny and Marie, prevent the large balloons from being used, and worst of all, cancel the fireworks — 36,000 shells."

Then, suddenly, a wind blew in from the east, stalling the storm over the Great Salt Lake, he said.

Just 15 minutes after the stadium emptied, Bullock said, the windstorm hit with ferocity. "Mitt Romney and I watched this and commented that this was like a divine punctuation mark of who is really in charge."

"Now when I travel around the world and mention I am from Salt Lake, a smile comes to the eyes, followed by a warm handshake, thanking us for a marvelous Games," he said.

"These Games were important for our community and for the church."


E-mail: jeffh@desnews.com

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