Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Olympic Torch Run - Ten Years Later

Me carrying the Olympic Flame- February 8, 2002

Today is the tenth anniversary of the opening ceremonies of the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympics. That day a decade ago started out on a much more exciting note for me than for most people.  I had been selected to carry the  The Olympic torch as it meandered across the valley all day long before reaching Olympic stadium. You might ask how in the world I got this once in a lifetime opportunity. Well, its all my wife's fault. In anticipation of welcoming the world, we wanted to participate as much as possible in the festivities, so when we heard that Coca-Cola was running an essay contest to pick torch bearers, we had to enter. The catch was that you had to nominate someone other than yourself. I wrote a glowing essay nominating my sweet wife and she did the same for me. It became very obvious based on the selection that she is the better essay writer (a fact that is never allowed to be forgotten). Read my wife's account of the torch run here.  I knew months in advance but it almost didn't seem real until the outfit came.

Post Torch run with my family

Waiting for the warm ups to arrive was a little nerve wracking but they showed up a couple of days before the run. I tried them on and the reality began to sink it. I was really going to carry the Olympic flame! The day broke with a blizzard. Slipping and sliding my way, I  navigated my way to a fire station in Taylorsville, the coordinated meeting place, where we would board the bus. The Torchbearers all got an orientation on how to  receive the flame, carry the torch and how to pass off the flame to the next runner. By the time we boarded the bus, the storm had broken and it was clear and sunny with fresh snow on the ground. Each torchbearer was dropped off a bit ahead of where they would receive the flame. As I stood at the side of Redwood  Road watching the flame approach, an overwhelming rush of excitement surged inside me. There were hundreds of cheering spectators lining both sides of the road cheering me on as I dipped my torch to receive the flame. I turned and ran (well, jogged since I didn't want the moment to pass too quickly) the fifth of a mile allocated to all torchbearers.

With my parents after the Torch Run

It was all over in a matter of minutes and I passed the burning symbol of the games on to the next lucky runner. A Torch Run assistant extinguished my torch and I watched the next runner disappear over the rise. Then I was surrounded by family, friends and complete strangers asking to pose for photos with this torch bearing "celebrity". I enjoyed wearing my Olympic Torch Run Gear to all the venues we attended for the rest of the games and had many conversations with folks about the experience. I was even interviewed live on the Jumbotron at halftime of one of the Olympic hockey games. It was such a fun time to see the world come to my home town for a couple of weeks and get to participate in such a memorable way. I hope the games return someday. Until then, I trasure the memories- and my torch which I got to keep.


jeffdinardo said...

Amazing story!

Greg Newbold said...

It was SO cool. I'm feeling a little nostalgic for the Olympics this week.

Rusty said...

I remember reading about one of the torch bearers in the church news while on a mission in Brazil. I remember the runner said he was a professional artist. I thought that's what I want to be, an artist and athletic! I had no idea that was you! Congrats.