The biggest stars of Salt Lake City's segment during Sunday's closing ceremonies needed a cargo plane and a trio of specially outfitted buses to get them to the 1998 Winter Games.
But once they arrived, the performers happily settled into the stables behind the Minami Nagano Sports Park where the menu offers little but hay and water.That's fine because these hoofers are horses, 10 specially selected thoroughbred brown-and-white pintos on loan to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee from a ranch in San Diego.
Their job is to help the organizing committee showcase Salt Lake City as the next Winter Games host in a five-minute production that's costing $750,000.
"Our horses are our celebrities," said Mary Gaddie, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's director of Games presentation. "They're beautiful, and they're probably going to steal the show."
The theme of Salt Lake's closing ceremonies segment is contrast, culture and courage, no surprise because it's the same theme that organizers chose for the 2002 Winter Games last August when the new logo was introduced.
The horses, though, are new. They were put in the production to help symbolize the American West, Gaddie said. "What we wanted to do is to give a sense of place," she said.
"They have a look about them we feel epitomizes courage," said Elisabeth Goth, a partner at the Scripps Miramar Ranch in San Diego where the horses were sired by a national champion, Chubasco.
The ranch picked up all of the costs associated with bringing the horses to Japan, including the team of 22 trainers, groomers and other personnel attending them.
Six Utah dancers selected from local dance companies are also in the show, as well as the organizing committee's 28 Junior Ambassadors, a group of seventh-graders from the state who won a trip to Japan in an essay contest.
The closing ceremonies are expected to last about 90 minutes and are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Sunday (2 a.m. Sunday, Utah time). Salt Lake City's segment will begin about midway before the Olympic flame is extinguished.