Salt Lake City Preps for Olympics

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Caught in the Act

Salt Lake City is hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics. As the largest city ever to host the Winter Olympics -- dwarfing towns like past hosts Lake Placid, Albertville, and Nagano -- Salt Lake still doesn't seem like your prototypical Olympic destination. But there are other quirks, too. Maybe it's the Mormon thing that doesn't quite seem to jive with the stereotypical Olympic festivity. Whatever the case, Salt Lake City

is

hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics, and it -- along with the surrounding communities -- is well on its way to making its Olympiad a smashing success.

This past February, I was part of a team of crack journalists given the opportunity to tour the Olympic venues exactly one year before the rest of the world would be doing the same. Not only did I get a great behind-the-scenes preview of the Salt Lake City Olympics, but I managed to get a great perspective on the entire Olympic scene.

As of my visit, Olympic construction was 97 percent complete, with all remaining work to be finished in the next several months. The city was working hard to put on the best show possible for the estimated three billion people watching in 160 countries and was looking forward to Salt Lake 2002 being the greatest Olympiad ever.

Many events will take place in the city itself. Salt Lake City is home to the Delta Center (to be renamed the Salt Lake Ice Center for the figure skating and short-track speed skating competitions), the Olympic Medals Plaza, and the Olympic Village on the beautiful University of Utah campus. The University's 50,000-plus-seat Rice-Eccles Stadium will accommodate the opening and closing ceremonies, where even the highest upper-deck seats are going for somewhere in the vicinity of $885 a pop.

Park City is also at the center of the action. During my trip, I stayed at Park City's incredible Marriott's MountainSide and even squeezed in a few days of skiing at world-famous Park City Mountain Resort, which will host giant slalom skiing and the halfpipe and parallel snowboarding events next February. Slalom skiing and freestyle aerials and moguls events will be held at Deer Valley Resort, just a few miles away. Still, there will be plenty of room for skiing during the Olympics as only two percent of Utah's ski terrain is being utilized for competition.

Just down the road from Park City, the Utah Winter Sports Park will be home to the bobsled, luge, skeleton, and ski jumping events. Watching a luge competition up-close and looking up toward the top of the ski jump take-off platform from below, I realized that thereare two events you'll never see my sorry butt taking part in.

Soldier Hollow, the wide-open home of the Olympic biathlon and cross-country skiing competitions, is nearby at the eastern edge of Wasatch Mountain State Park.

It's still strange for me to think of Salt Lake hosting the world and the Olympic-style merriment, but they're going to do it, and from the looks of things, they'll be more than ready.

For more Olympic information, check out Salt Lake 2002's official website at

www.saltlake2002.com

.

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