McEntee: Yearning for a seat at the 2026 Winter Olympics
I'm having mixed feelings about Salt Lake City hosting the Winter Olympics yet again.
Do we really need to spend zillions to stage another big show? Wouldn't it be better to hunker down, get our priorities straight and beef up education funding, help those in need, revamp our medical care and create an actual two-party system of governance?
On the other hand, the 2002 Games made a profit, sending millions into public schools and nonprofits.
As for me, and this is purely selfish, I pretty much missed the 2002 spectacle. Like many of my colleagues at The Salt Lake Tribune, I watched the whole thing for, oh, about 12 hours a day on a 13-inch TV suspended above my desk.
There I learned that Mitt Romney almost certainly dropped the F-bomb when a traffic mess kept thousands away from the downhill races at Snowbasin, and that he did look handsome in his fancy Olympic parka.
On the other hand, I never bought that he was the walking-one-and-only savior of the 2002 Games. Too many people worked for years to organize, prepare and execute the Games. The bad actors were long gone, but the good ones stayed on and got things done.
Romney did, however, persuade sponsoring corporations to not withdraw Olympic funding after the scandal, so we can give him that.
Also, Utah taxpayers were repaid $59 million plus interest from a 1989 referendum to help pay for the Games. Of a $100 million profit on the Olympics, $76 million went to the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation to run the luge, bobsled and ski jumps in Park City and the speed-skating oval in Kearns.
The remaining $24 million went to Utah school districts and nonprofits.
Back in 2002, seeing the tattered American flag from ground zero during the opening ceremony brought tears. We also learned that Hill Air Force Base fighter pilots were trained to take down a passenger jet in the event of another terrorist hijacking.
Downtown Salt Lake City was a hive of crowded sidewalks, clots of scalpers on Main Street and packed TRAX trains.
And, miracle of miracles, the LDS Church taught its members how not to proselytize.
Just down the street, Lamb's Grill hosted throngs of Europeans catered to by waiters and waitresses carrying huge platters laden with beer bottles.
I did make it to the Roots outlet, but I didn't buy a beret, I swear.
For a long time during the Games, the Salt Lake Valley was socked in by an inversion. That dreariness evaporated when we watched the ski racing and snowboarding on TV. (I scored a ticket so my husband could go to Soldier Hollow for a day of biathlon.)
And late every night, I'd drive home past the Olympic Cauldron, which was extinguished after a stunning closing ceremony at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
I could be in my dotage by 2026, but I'd like to bundle up and see a few things. Snagging a ticket to ice dancing would be thrilling, as would actually seeing soaring men and women at the ski jumps.
Lastly, if we get the Games again, a whole new generation would compete in existing sports and those that haven't even been invented.
No one knows whether Salt Lake City even has a shot at the 2026 Winter Olympics. But if the success of the 2002 Winter Games is a factor, we just might, and it would sure be sweet to be there.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @pegmcentee.
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