Olympic Adventure: Utah Shines
By Tammie Thompson
I've been seeing a few reviews of the Olympic experience. There was an article in a Colorado newspaper about how poor a job Utah did. There were the numerous reports of the threat of terrorism and long waits at security checks. There were the reports on the transportation dilemma, the lack of hot dogs, the inconsistent performance of the U.S. athletes, and all I can do is wonder, were these reporters at the same Olympics as I was?
For the Olympics that I experienced were awesome. This was no media coddled experience either. We loaded up the truck and headed out to Utah with a smattering of Olympic tickets ordered over a year ago. The goal: to see some Olympic action first hand, to cheer on our athletes, and perhaps inspire my son to Olympic dreams.
We found the Utah highways to be uncongested. We found the Utah people to be unbelievably friendly. We found transportation to be acceptable. We found Utah resorts to be well prepared. And we found something we weren't looking for - a sense of American pride inspired by hard working athletes who glittered at home. Stadiums full of cheering Americans, with painted faces and waving flags, bursting with American fervor over its own.
We hit Snowbasin early for the Men's Downhill. Our goal: to secure finish line fence space to cheer on Daron Rahlves, Truckee's hometown hero. Security was friendly, crowds controlled, and we breezed to Snowbasin's temporary stadium. I would have liked to explore the new lodge and polished trails, but for today, Olympic revelers were confined to the Olympic stadium. The "pre-game show" hosted by Pam Fletcher was entertaining and primed the crowd. Before you knew it, the racers were catapulting themselves down the treacherous course towards our spot at the finish. Cow bells, marching bands, and Austrian music collided with the spray of the downhillers as they checked the board for their times.
Unfortunately it wasn't Daron's day. He was obviously disappointed with his run. The highlight was the 9th place showing of Marco Sullivan. Squaw Valley's contingent cheered like Marco won the gold medal. Hometown heroes, that's what it's all about.
After the race we caravanned to a tiny restaurant nestled amid Utah's abundant cattle and rural landscape. The Spring Chicken had to have the best chicken sandwiches this side of the Wasatchs. A little culture for the record.
Our next event was the Men's Halfpipe. You know how that turned out, but I have share the thrill the event generated. Park City put out a wonderful venue. The stadium was huge, refreshment facilities abundant, plus the weather was perfect. The only distraction was watching the lonely skiers carve turns out of Utah's finest packed powder. As qualification rounds dwindled, the buzz of the crowd increased. It was a party. A huge party. Live music, snowskate demos, painted faces, and anticipation all contributed to the frenzy of the crowd. The boys were going huge. There was no doubt that Ross Powers was the winner after his first run through the pipe. Big air.
The U.S. sweep at the halfpipe marked the first time since the '50's that the US had secured three medals. But that is insignificant when you look at what the event says about America. There's no doubt that the future of snowsports lies in the buzz created by snowboarding and freeriding. Our youth craves the thrill of big air, on skis or boards, and the speed events pale next to it. We can either embrace it as mainstream or watch it fade.
Pumped at the U.S. win, we were ready for some traditional ice-skating. We cruised the Olympic Plaza in Salt Lake, and took in some Pairs Skating. Unfortunately that experience tarnished the medals, but hey, the media loved it!
And on to Men's Moguls. Deer Valley this time, for another big stadium and some massive bumps. The crowd was pretty pumped. It looked like it could be Jonny Moseley's day. He pulled out his "Dinner Roll" and got sacked by the judges. The FIS may not be ready for his freeriding move, but the crowd sure was. Boos and hisses, then some respectable applause for the winners. Moseley had made a statement.
Macy Gray headlined the medals ceremonies that night. We took in the pre-medal performance, cheered on the medal winners, and froze our keisters off. The concert series proved to be successful at mobilizing our youth and getting our country pumped up with patriotism.
Our last day we spent back at Snowbasin. I wasn't exactly enthralled with a day of standing at the finish line, but the Combined Downhill proved to be one of the most exciting events we attended. The crowd was more diversified, we saw more families and lots and lots of American flags. The only obstacle we faced was a two-hour line for the infamous hot dogs, but the Olympic Marching Band, Tea Cup Ladies and Tahoe Longboarders entertained the crowd. The jumbotrons had up to the minute Curling action. The crowd cheered enthusiastically for the US Curling Team.
After Bode Miller's wild downhill ride, we didn't hold out much hope for a medal. But he pulled out an awesome Slalom run. The suspense built. The crowd went nuts. Only Aamodt could slide past Bode. Go USA! On to Silver!
What a way to end our Olympic adventure. For a little downtime, we headed into Park City for some aggressive pin trading. Coca Cola had an "official" pin-trading tent that was seeing lots of action. Park City pulled out all the stops, with lots of dining options (we loved the Sushi tent with a hand drawn sign that said, "Jonny was robbed"), gas flamed fire pits for hand warming, and lots of jumbotrons for up to the minute action.
Our only regret was that we were leaving without seeing the Luge, Bobsleigh, or Nordic Jumping. Then there was all that incredible snow to be discovered. No doubt about it, we were coming back to make our own tracks on Utah's slopes. And soon.
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