There are a lot of things Utahns don't know about the Utah Winter Games.
The 11-winter-sport competition, with 150 events for young and old, the very talented and the physically handicapped, is in its third year.U.S. Olympic Committee President Robert Helmick called them the "model state games." Besides providing winter sports opportunities, the games promote the development of athletes and give many others a chance at competing that they may never receive anywhere else.
But when the man-off-the-street walks into the Bountiful Recreation Center to see either figure skating or ice hockey and sees a "US West" sweatshirt on the person taking admission at the door, he has been known to mutter, "I pay enough money on my phone bill, why are you charging me for this?" To a US West employee who has voluntarily given up weekends, holidays and evenings for 16 days, this statement is perplexing.
Admission to the events is charged to cover costs for the ice time, medals and the opening ceremonies. But the money goes to the Winter Games.
Utahns, listen up! Not only is US West a sponsor of the Winter Games, but over 1,000 hours are volunteered by US West employees. They put in a full day's work and then head straight for the ice rink to open the doors on the hockey penalty box or count shots on the goalie until past 11 p.m.
Service representative Jacque Katz spent New Year's Day at Jeremy Ranch. One of her duties was to check during a relay to see if the exchange was done as specified. "I made sure the tag was done correctly and shouted `hand to body' to the competitors,' " she said.
Sue Blair, a technical consultant, and Carol Smedley, an engineering specialist, would prefer not to count the hours they spent doing all the scheduling for the games. Their work began officially Dec. 29 and ended this past Sunday.
Scheduling the volunteers to staff the sign-ups and assist with the games is a monumental task. The events included telemark skiing, cross country skiing, biathlon, archery/biathlon, alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, speed skating and ice hockey. Katz was volunteering the day Utah Olympian Denise Parker picked up another archery win in her age division.
Smedley met some of Magna's famous Soviet residents, who were taking in a hockey game. "They kept saying, `Who are all these people?' " she laughed. "I told them they were just Utahns who wanted to compete."
Blair explained some of the duties that US West employees fulfilled during their volunteer stints. "We manned the information booth at the Marriott Hotel from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. for 17 days starting Dec. 29. We helped register contestants, hang banners and posters, take money, hand out bibs for ski events and we are timers and gate keepers," she said. Smedley added, "We also call in the results of competition and help the kids in the disabled races."
When US West decided to become a sponsor the first year of the Winter Games, the employees agreed to also be supporters. "We got involved that very first year because we wanted to do more than just give money," Smedley said. She told about one employee who takes a two-week vacation in January and spends her time volunteering at the games.
For those employees who can't be out in the cold, many hours are donated in staffing the information booth at the Marriott Hotel. Others spend time assisting hockey or ice skating competitions.
"The games are getting more and more publicity now. It really is fun and worth the time we give to make them successful," said Blair.