More Dogs on Main
February 3, 2012
The Olympics were here 10 years ago. In some ways it seems like yesterday, and in others, so long ago that it almost never happened. I was very skeptical of the whole idea, but got talked into volunteering as a local information specialist. It was a wonderful experience, and something I’d do over again in a heartbeat. This is a combination of columns that ran during the Olympics that kind of recall the experience.
My job in the Olympics is one of the most important, and also one of the oldest. I’m an Olympic street walker. I was chosen for this position on the basis that I formerly worked as a lawyer and therefore had all the training necessary. In theory, my assignment was to walk between Main Street and Deer Valley, through Park City’s historic Red Light District, stopping people named John and offering to arrange a truck and a tow job. Or something like that. The problem is that there was nobody on Deer Valley Drive who wasn’t in a bus.
So I moved onto Main Street itself and strutted my wares up and down the street, hoping that somebody would stop and ask me for information. I spent 12 hours in intensive training, including a visit from the Protocol Princess, learning how to greet the Pope and point the way to the toilets with culturally neutral gestures. After a couple of hours of strolling the street, with nobody asking any questions, I began to question my usefulness. The solution was obvious. I began pulling people out of the crowd at random, and saying, "The toilets are that way." Many of them found it quite alarming, and one called security.
The only real question I got was a hard one. Two guys from Chile wanted to know how to send get well wishes to a Chilean downhill racer who was seriously injured in a training accident the day before. Through a set of lucky guesses, I got somebody on the phone who gave me the phone number for "Athlete Services" and they were able to call their team, if not get right through to their pal, who is probably still in a hospital someplace. I felt validated.
Their next question was even harder. How could they get to Salt Lake without a rental car. Turns out that it can’t be done. Despite a fleet of about a thousand buses parked out at Home Depot, SLOC doesn’t have a system in place that gets people between the widely scattered venues effectively. The park-and-ride system works great. But missing link is that between the park-and-ride lots in Park City and Heber, or Salt Lake, the assumption is that you will be driving your car. They were quite disappointed, so just for good measure, I told them were the toilets were. The one guy was a Paralympic racer for Chile. We talked about how steep the downhill at Snowbasin is, and he was quite relieved that he was only racing slalom.
Security is tight, but less evident than a week ago when they were training. I rode up the lift with three beefy guys who "worked for the government" (presumably not the Library of Congress) who kept talking to the cuffs of their jackets. My sister is doing mag-and-bag at the medals plaza in Salt Lake. That seemed improbable, but she reminded me that she taught kindergarten for 20 years. "If you didn’t bring enough anthrax for everybody, you’ll just have to leave it outside," she said. If I were trying to pull something, I’d rather take my chances with the guys from ATF than tangle with a kindergarten teacher.
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The Opening Ceremony was wonderful. I had the best seat there is on my couch in front of a roaring fire. Any time you can get the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Dixie Chicks on the same stage, you know you are onto something. The Indian depiction was interesting and, for Europeans, probably fascinating. The hoe-down was a little longer than any hoe-down really needs to be, but still fun. Again, the foreign audience (of 3.5 BILLION people!) probably thought it was interesting.
It’s always a jolt to see ourselves as others see us. NBC kept showing this beautiful waterfront scene, with a huge lake, then a shining city on the shore, with majestic mountains rising beyond. "Canada," I thought. But I finally realized they were photographing Salt Lake City from out over the actual Great Salt Lake. It looked wonderful in the photo. I’ve lived here my whole life and have only stuck a toe in the putrid, pickled cesspool twice. But on NBC, it looked inviting. Things are just shining around here.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column for 25 years.