Red Card Roberts
July 31, 2012
While the world is watching London, mesmerized by and celebrating astonishing athletic feats (well, except for Mitt Romney, who is busy cementing his reputation as an out-of-touch elitist snob by entering his horse in the Olympic equivalent of equine prom and then offending America’s biggest ally by announcing in an interview he’s not confident the Brits can pull off the Games), those of us in Park City who lived our own Olympics are recalling and reliving many of our unique, personal and prideful moments.
Everywhere I turn, a TV is tuned to what’s happening in London and somebody nearby has a fond comment that starts with something like, "When we hosted the Olympics, I remember "
So this week, a few locals take us on their personal tour down Olympics Memory Lane. Security was tight, berets were highly sought, and happiness abounded.
"I remember being at the snowboard competition and we had to evacuate because a lone cooler was left behind and it had to be deployed by the bomb squad," said Park City resident Carey Gross.
Of course, the Winter Olympics in 2002 came on the heels of the September 11 attacks, and while safety measures were amplified, in some cases, they were also downright comical.
"The FBI was always popping up in strange spots," Cathy Sonneberg remembers. "They hid in bushes and would just pop out at you, like cartoon characters."
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But, as Randy Scott recalls, the Olympics were also a healing opportunity for our country. "Post 9-11, the Olympics were just the positive experience our country needed. Everyone was happy and excited to attend the events. And everyone was trying to find that elusive Jell-O pin."
The famed green Jell-O pin (now available on e-Bay with bids starting at $4) wasn’t the only must-have souvenir.
Remember that beret? People were lined up outside of Roots for hours in hopes of snagging one. Shelly Pinner worked at the Roots store at the time. "You would be amazed at what people would trade for that stupid hat!"
I’ve heard stories of people paying hundreds of dollars for them. Ten plus years later, they can be found at the ski swap each November for about a buck.
And then there were locals who were able to capitalize a bit on the events. Jill Parente lived at the top of Main Street in 2002. "I rented out my driveway for $500 a day," she says. She did not say whether she used some of that cash to buy herself a green Jell-O pin or beret.
If you watched this year’s opening ceremony in London, it’s probably a fair bet that you were, perhaps, slightly perplexed. (I’m still trying to figure out the three athletes from "Independent Country." Though I did quite enjoy their spontaneous dance party.)
But for those Parkites lucky enough to have attended the opening ceremony in Utah, it was an experience they will never forget. Claudia McMullin remembers sitting in the nosebleed section and feeling lucky to have secured a ticket, "until an eagle soared just inches above my head and scared the crap out of me."
So while Great Britain is still busy making memories of its special weeks in the spotlight, it’s safe to assume the British will have their own fond recollections in the years to come.
And yes, some might start with something like, "Do you remember that guy who looked like someone who would run a seminar on timeshare ownership, who wanted to be president of the United States, who said our Olympic spirit was questionable. Whatever happened to him?"
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Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, public-relations guru and globe-trotting thrill seeker. In a former life she worked in TV news, both as a reporter and sports anchor. She has bagged peaks on six continents, kayaked the Zambezi and Nile rivers, swam with great white sharks in South Africa and tracked mountain gorillas in Rwanda. She was once very nearly sold for 2,000 camels while traveling through Morocco.