Park City Olympic plans: why Dec. 31, 2001 remains an important date
It was New Year’s Eve 2001-2002 and the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics were five weeks away.
It was time for a party in Park City as the community braced for the fast-approaching Games. And the spot to be in the final hours of 2001 was outside Snow Park Lodge at Deer Valley Resort.
Deer Valley was preparing to host skiing and freestyle skiing events during the Olympics, and much of the Games infrastructure was already ready. A giant temporary stadium was built and other Games-time installations in the Park City area were completed or nearly done by New Year’s.
The days around Dec. 31, 2001, coincided with a skiing competition known as the Gold Cup. It involved U.S. athletes competing against each other for cash and a place on the American team that would compete in the Olympics. The Gold Cup also presented an extraordinary opportunity for City Hall staffers heavily involved in the Olympic preparations as well as the organizing committee that was putting on the Games. The Gold Cup would offer them the chance to stage an event with many of the trappings of an Olympic competition and then consider modifications to the plans for the Games themselves if they were warranted.
As Salt Lake City and the wider Olympic region prepare to bid on a future Games, likely those of 2030, events such as the Gold Cup and other competitions held in the pre-Olympic years are expected to be revisited as officials consider the successes and failures of the Games in 2002.
The United States Olympic Committee in December selected Salt Lake City as the country’s bid city for a future Winter Olympics. The event in 2030 is the target. The Park City area will play a major role in the bid. Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley Resort and the Utah Olympic Park are identified as competition venues, as they were in 2002.
Numerous test events would be scheduled in and around Park City if the International Olympic Committee selects Salt Lake City as the host of the Games in 2030. The test events are primarily designed to ensure the competition venues meet Olympic standards rather than providing a Games-like run through of the operations. The test events do not draw crowds the size of the Olympics and the Games-time transportation infrastructure is not in place for them.
The scenario on the night of Dec. 31 of 2001 was much different. The stadium, ready for the crowds, loomed over Snow Park Lodge. A giant park-and-ride lot off U.S. 40, temporarily built for the Games, was available. Many of the vehicles that were part of the large Olympic bus fleet had arrived by then.
The Gold Cup in many ways became the most important of the Park City-area test events held in the years before the Olympics. It provided the Games organizers an extraordinary preview of how the operations were likely to unfold five weeks later. The attendance that night for an aerials contest was estimated at approximately 12,000, a smaller crowd than those expected during the Olympic events but one large enough to highlight the operational successes or failures. The Gold Cup, though, lacked the security screenings that would be in place for the Olympic crowds, one of the only shortcomings of the event in its role as a test for the Games.
The scene was unprecedented. Many of the spectators used the park-and-ride lot rather than driving their own vehicles into Deer Valley, a first step in the implementation of the plan for the Olympics. The bus fleet plied the route between the lot and Park City. Buses arrived outside Snow Park Lodge, the passengers got off to walk to the venue and the buses headed out on another run. Bus after bus arrived and left Snow Park Lodge in quick succession.
“All in all, what you saw up there was an Olympic event,” Frank Bell, who directed City Hall’s Olympic planning, said shortly afterward, adding. “The system back and forth to the 40 lot worked faster than we thought it would.”
City Hall at the time said approximately 6,000 people used municipal buses that night. It took buses 20 minutes at the busiest points to travel from Snow Park Lodge to the Old Town transit center, officials said. Deer Valley Resort and the Olympic organizers were also pleased with the transportation system’s performance.
The Gold Cup offered early evidence that the Park City-area Olympic transportation plans, which were some of the most important aspects of the overall blueprint, were sound. There appeared to be some level of confidence afterward that the Gold Cup operations could be duplicated five weeks later even with the larger crowds.
The Olympic transportation and parking systems in the Park City area proved successful. There were traffic jams and complaints about the Olympic buses, which were expected given the size of the operation, but the systems were widely seen as one of the keys to an Olympics that remain highly regarded 16 years later.
An organizing committee that would be seated should Salt Lake City be awarded an Olympics would almost certainly quickly conduct a thorough review of the operations of 2002. Parts of the plans from the Games of 2002 would likely be incorporated in some fashion even as the organizers would create maps and systems that reflect the region of 2030.
An organizing committee that would consider the Olympic plans for Park City, including the transportation and parking, could even mark a certain date five weeks before opening ceremonies for a test run: Dec. 31, 2029.
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