Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will return to Salt Lake City for the Feb. 18 celebration of the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Fraser Bullock, Romney's right-hand man in running the Games, said Thursday that Romney will make a "special appearance" at an evening figure skating extravaganza. The "Tribute to Salt Lake 2002 featuring Stars on Ice" show begins at 7 p.m. that night at EnergySolutions Arena.
"Mitt always made it clear to everybody that he wanted to come. It was a top priority for him," Bullock said. "He looks fondly back on the Olympics as one of the key highlights of his career."
Bullock has been talking with Romney's campaign staff for months, trying to arrange a time for the former Salt Lake Organizing Committee president to break free for a few hours from the contentious GOP campaign trail.
He guaranteed that Romney will speak at the "Stars on Ice" Olympic tribute, but it is unclear whether Romney will be around for any of the daylong public celebration Feb. 18 at The Gateway. The caldron at the University of Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium also will be relit Feb. 8, the actual 10th anniversary of the start of the 2002 Winter Games.
"This is the last piece to come together for the celebration," Bullock said. "Mitt was our leader. He did a fabulous job and, in a way, he represents our collective effort, even though he's the first to deflect attention to the team and the volunteers."
In a news release from event organizers, Romney said "the greatness of achievement is measured in the fire and passion of dreamers. The 2002 Olympic Games taught us that our aspirations can become reality."
"The 3,500 athletes and more than 50,000 members of Team 2002 dared to make their dreams real," Romney added. "I salute the people of Salt Lake City that made these Olympic Winter Games the best in history."
Featured performers in the ice show will be women's gold medalist figure skater Sarah Hughes, the Canadian pairs team of Jamie SalÃ© and David Pelletier, and world champion and six-time U.S. champion Todd Eldredge.
Ticket sales, which will be used to pay for the unspecified costs of the celebration, have been slow so far. But Bullock expects that to pick up now that organizers have solidified the Feb. 18 program and can launch promotions.
Tickets start at $20 and may be bought online at http://www.smithtix.com, by phone at 801-355-7328 or at the EnergySolutions Arena box office.
Park City celebrations
Two free community events are planned in Summit County to commemorate its key role in the 2002 Winter Olympics Feb. 1 from 5 to 9 p.m. on Park City's Main Street, kicking off the FIS Freestyle World Cup at Deer Valley; and Feb. 9 from 5 to 6 p.m. at Utah Olympic Park outside of Park City.
In addition, Kimball Art Center will showcase an exhibit of Olympic photographs and memorabilia from Feb. 1 to April 7. Another display of Olympic materials already has opened at the George Eccles 2002 Olympic Winter Games Museum at the Olympic Park. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.