Reliving the Olympic dream
February 8, 2012
Although the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics and Paralympics were held a decade ago, the displays and exhibits at the Joe Quinney Winter Sport Center at the Utah Olympic Park give the appearance the Games are still going on today.
Highlighting the original exhibits that have been on display since the museum opened in 2004, a new section of posters and photos has been added in the foyer and will be up until Saturday, Feb. 18.
That’s when the museum staff will pack them into a U-Haul truck and ship them down to be set up for the Olympic Sport Festival at the Gateway Center in Salt Lake City, said Connie Nelson, the museum’s executive director.
"We’ve tried to recreate the memories with displays of the some of the banners what convey the look and the feel of those Olympics," Nelson said to The Park Record as she led a tour through the building. "We also are displaying photos from the Olympic souvenir book, ‘Light the Fire Within,’ and we also are presenting some of the stories and the front pages of the newspaper coverage."
The entryway exhibit also features a section dedicated to the parkas worn by the Games’ volunteers and staff members.
"The colors represent different jobs," Nelson explained. "Anyone who wore green was stationed in the field of play wherever the athletes were ski jump, bobsled, luge, skeleton and the jackets that were Mountain Shadow Blue, as it was called by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, were worn by all the SLOC employees. Mitt Romney wore one of those."
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The emergency medical technicians and paramedics wore the red coats and the guest-service volunteers wore yellow.
"We had 25,000 of those volunteers," Nelson said. "They were the folks that really made it all happen."
Next to the parkas is a white running suit worn by Alan Engen who was on the Olympic Torch Relay Team. Engen is the son of the late skiing pioneer Alf Engen.
"This is a fun one, because people wore their torch uniforms all across the United States," Nelson said. "We also have Alan’s torch on display."
Nelson and her staff also pulled out the original Park City banners that were created by Kathy Hunter, for display in the entryway.
"We’re also working with a software company to feature different photos of the Paralympic and Olympic games on a newly installed monitor on the West wall," Nelson said. "The photos will be flashing on the screen daily."
The museum staff began working on the anniversary display a year ago.
"We spent a lot of time trying to pull everything out of the archive rooms," Nelson said. "I’m not sure how many artifacts we have, but we still have another room full of things that we may pull out and switch in the coming months."
Another big attraction of the Olympics was the enamel pin trading.
"There were 3,000 pins made and we have 600 on our permanent display," Nelson said. "The display case is in the shape of the SLOC logo, and we tried to use the pins to color coordinate it with the blue, red and yellow."
In addition to the enclosed display, Nelsons installed a pin-exchange station by the entryway.
"People can come in and bring in their own pins and swap them out," she said. "They can also buy some pins at the gift shop and trade them, too. We will also have pin traders coming on Feb. 18 at the Gateway as well."
For Nelson, the 2002 Olympics were an event of a lifetime.
"I’m such an Olympic junkie," she said with a laugh. "During the 2002 Games, I worked for the Utah Olympic Park for SLOC and was also the senior business manager for the park, so I was lucky enough to work right here."
Nelson noticed a unity within those Winter Games that was only emphasized by the shadow of 9/11.
"There was talk about canceling the Olympics, because everyone was frightened of what might happen," she said. "But nothing did. It was the biggest party ever and made America say, ‘Hey! We’re having a big party, and we’re not going to let anybody get us down.’
"The people and the experience was how the 2002 Games became the best Olympics ever," she said.
Nelson knew her experience would be unique when she watched people arrive at the Utah Olympic Park at 4 a.m. so they could see the events that would start at 8 a.m.
"I remember being down at the bottom of the hill and people were going through the metal detectors and being searched," she said. "No one complained. They were all happy just standing in the lines. It was so positive."