Park City fondly recalls 2002 Winter Olympics with stories from Games, pin trading and Roots berets

Commemoration marking 20-year anniversary held in Old Town amid efforts to host another Olympics

Gallery caption: Park City on Saturday hosted a celebration to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Parkites and other revelers gathered in the Bob Wells Plaza on Swede Alley, wearing gear from the 2002 Games, participating in pin trading and trying their hand at a few Olympic events. Many of the attendees recalled the 2002 Games as a magical time. | David Jackson/Park Record

Some wore the Roots berets — still instantly recognizable — they bought during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Others were not even born at the time of the Games of 20 years ago.

Park City on Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the Winter Olympics with a commemoration in Old Town that drew an enthusiastic crowd of Parkites and people from elsewhere. Some had a role in the Games, others recalled the era with fondness and still more seemed to be in the Olympic spirit with the competitions in China continuing.

Winter Olympic followers gathered in Bob Wells Plaza on Swede Alley for a day of storytelling, snapshots and rooting for the U.S. athletes in the Winter Olympics in Beijing. One of the people, Dana Williams, who was the mayor of Park City during the Games in 2002, clutched his Olympic torch as he moved through the crowd. At least one person was seen wearing a torchbearer uniform from 2002. The mascots from the Games were present.

A large video board showed Olympic footage, fire pits resembling those used in Park City in 2002 provided extra warmth on a sunny February day and Sen. Mitt Romney, who led the organizing committee that put on the Games, made an appearance. There were demonstrations of the Winter Olympic sports of curling and biathlon. A pin-trading booth with a wide selection of mementos from 2002 drew interest while a booth selling cowbells also attracted winter sports fans as they perused different designs of their preferred noisemaker.

“Best time of my life,” said Connie Nelson, who is the executive director of the Alf Engen Ski Museum at the Utah Olympic Park, as she spoke about the Games of 2002, calling the Olympics a “great big party.”

She remembered the fun the athletes had and the inclusiveness of the Games.

Daniel Lewis lived toward the top of Main Street during the Olympics and recalled being a spectator on the day U.S. snowboarders swept the medals in the halfpipe competition at Park City Mountain Resort.

“I was a snowboarder from Kamas. Nobody snowboarded from Kamas,” Lewis said. “That was the moment … I had role models.”

There were scores of Olympic pins on display and for sale, rekindling the interest of the crowd 20 years later. One table had motorcycle-themed Olympic pins that were designed for the mayor who led Park City during the planning for the Games, Brad Olch, while another one was made in the shape of the well-known clock along Main Street. There were Olympic pins from Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort, both competition venues in 2002, on display with the others. The famous green jello Olympic pins were also available.

Mike Bennett, who is from South Jordan and whose collection was on display, said he brought between 1,500 and 2,000 pins from the Games in 2002 to the event for sale or trade. He said there is a “renewed run” on pins with the 20th anniversary of the Games in 2002 and with the efforts underway to stage a second Winter Olympics in the state. He said a green jello Olympic pin from 2002 sells for $100.

“All Olympic pins are popular when the Olympics are running,” he said.

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee is temporarily leasing space along Main Street during the Games in China, installing a large “We are Team USA” banner on a building at the highly visible intersection with Heber Avenue. The location added to the spirit on Saturday, as did a broadcast of the Olympics on a video screen just off the Main Street sidewalk.

The 20th anniversary commemoration of 2002 was the largest in Park City since the 10-year mark a decade ago. It was also held as Salt Lake City and the wider Olympic region is seeking a second Games, with the event in 2030 appearing to be a possibility. Salt Lake City is the nation’s bid city for a future Winter Olympics and the International Olympic Committee is expected to turn its attention to awarding the Games of 2030 in the period after the close of the Winter Olympics in China. A timeline for a decision by the Lausanne, Switzerland-based organization about the Olympics in 2030, though, is not known.

Park City

Park City Council meets twice this week

The Park City Council will hold a special meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 9 a.m. The agenda includes public input and possible action on an Interlocal Agreement for 911 Services between Summit County, Park City Fire District, and Park City Municipal. 

See more

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.