Here in Utah we’re celebrating the tenth anniversary of the 2002 Winter Games, the memory of which remains—for those of us who live here—a singular bright, shining moment. For sixteen glorious days, our prophets, seers and regulators eased up on the rules; for the first time it became possible to order a glass of wine in a restaurant without enduring censorious glares from the Von Clapp Trapp family seated at the next table.
Everywhere you looked, there were banners admonishing athletes to Light the Fire Within! Or was the motto Fight the Liar Within? I forget. My memory of the event has grown hazy. What I do remember is how exciting it was to venture downtown, to circulate among visitors from all around the world, to hear a multitude of languages and accents. It was like living in an actual big city.
Last week the Olympic torch at Rice-Eccles stadium was relit, but only briefly because, well, natural gas is expensive. This time around there were no fireworks and just one helicopter hovering overhead. There were no torch runners in sight, but then I never did get to see one in 2002.
The stadium is less than a mile from my house and the torch route to it was a mere two blocks away. My son and I took up a position on the corner of Harrison and 13th East, but then just as the torch bearer was about to pass, a UTA bus came along and blocked our view. A burly neighbor, Craig Lee, emerged from the crowd, intent on punching the bus driver, who pulled away just in the nick of time.
The following day my friend Dave Moore came to town and we set about trying to score tickets to various events. All of the hot venues were already sold out, so we had to settle for a hockey match at the E Center and the following day ski jumping near Park City. We sat for hours, our butts frozen solid to metal bleachers, then got caught up in a human traffic jam on the way back to the parking lot. I decided ski jumping is a lot more exciting on television.
On the third day we decided to visit the curling event, in Ogden, where attendants at the nearly empty parking lot were delighted to see us. Inside, we encountered a man wearing a kilt with a dirk tucked into his knee socks.
“Are you from Scotland?” we asked, stupidly.
“And you’ve come all the way from Scotland to watch curling? Is it that exciting?”
“D’ye enjoy watchin’ paint dry, laddies?”
I remember everyone was frantic to lay their hands on one of those Roots berets, as seen on Katie Couric. Dave and I tried, but the best we could come up with wasn’t anything that Katie Couric would be ever caught wearing.
A few days after closing ceremonies, I somehow managed to snag an interesting souvenir—what I believe to be Mitt Romney’s parka. How do I know it’s Mitt’s? Well, because it’s a 44R, which is the same number you’ll find on the labels of the candidate’s empty suit coats. As you can imagine, it has really deep pockets and of course it’s fully reversible.
Right now it’s just hanging in my closet, gathering dust. So make me an offer I can’t refuse!