Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini took center stage during Sunday's closing ceremonies for the 1998 Winter Games, making history as the first woman to accept the Olympic flag.
Wearing a custom-made bright red ski jumpsuit, Corradini smiled at the cheering crowd as she waved the huge white flag emblazoned with the Olympic rings a few times before carrying it across the baseball stadium field."I've been a little nervous all day," she said, still beaming at a Salt Lake Organizing Committee party following the closing ceremonies Sunday night. "This really was one of the high points of my life."
Corradini said she's been in training for her few minutes on the field. "It is a very big, heavy, unwieldy flag with a long pole. My 31/2 weeks of working out paid off."
Her moment came after athletes paraded into the Minami Nagano Sports Park shortly after dark Sunday, and hundreds of area residents had joyfully demonstrated local festival traditions.
Corradini took the Olympic flag from International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch, after it was returned by Nagano Mayor Tasuku Tsukada.
The formal flag ceremony was followed by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's five-minute debut before the world as the host of the next Olympic Winter Games in 2002.
The crowd of more than 50,000 watched as flashes of lightning and bursts of confetti "snow" illuminated an inflatable red arch and gray mountain as well as a more solid butte that revealed the brightly colored SLOC logo.
Six modern dancers appeared on the center stage, performing an interpretive piece about the contrasts between the red rocks, deserts and mountains of the American West.
But it was the horseback riders and old-fashioned stagecoach that drew the loudest reaction from the audience - and caused the most flashbulbs to go off. Ten horses came back for a second ride around the stadium.
Then, with the giant television screen flashing an image of Utah children shouting, "See you in 2002," Salt Lake City's role in the closing ceremonies was finished.
The one-hour and 40-minute show also featured 5,000 fireworks and the crowd's singing a much-loved Japanese song, "Furusato (My Hometown)," while waving lighted paper lanterns.
Mary Gaddie, the woman in charge of the Salt Lake segment, accepted hugs and congratulations from her organizing committee colleagues, including SLOC Chief Executive Officer Frank Joklik.
"I'm just so proud of her," Joklik said after greeting Gaddie at the post-ceremonies bash. "I thought the audience reaction spoke for itself . . . I thought it was tremendous."
Gaddie, SLOC's director of Games presentation, didn't hear the squeals of the crowd when the horses appeared because she was in a soundproof booth overseeing the production.
"I am really very happy - and completely relieved - that it's over and that people really liked it," Gaddie said. She said Utahns can expect to see the butte again - it's already been taken apart and packed for shipping.
At least one member of Team USA said he was inspired enough by Salt Lake City's presentation during closing ceremonies to continue competing through 2002.
"After watching the closing ceremonies today, the Utah part of it and the passing of the flag, I told myself, `You've got to stick it out another four years,' " biathlete Dan Westover said.
Not everyone had a good time Sunday.
Salt Lake City Council Chairman Bryce Jolley missed most of the show because he relied on public transportation to get to the stadium, located in a suburb about a half-hour away from downtown.
"The only part I saw was the very end," Jolley said. He said the trip took three times as long as it should have and included a mile-long hike to the stadium in frigid temperatures.
"The common people need to be able to have access," Jolley said, adding that while he was sorry he missed the Salt Lake presentation, he learned a lesson. "When you have roads closed down for the emperor, it's not fair."
The emperor and empress of Japan viewed the closing ceremonies from a VIP box, just as they did the opening ceremonies 16 days ago. And, as then, traffic was halted while the royal couple entered and exited the stadium.