The Park Record Editorial Aug. 9-12, 2008
There is a point when the scales tip, when there is no turning back. After working so hard to be selected as a host city and then building millions of dollars worth of facilities — Beijing is now fully immersed in the Olympics. And, as residents of a former host city, many Parkites know exactly how it feels to dive into that raging river of global excitement and scrutiny.
In the final months before the 2002 Games began, nothing else seemed to matter. Park City officials fretted fulltime about traffic, security and money and local businesses owners primped and preened hoping to capitalize on the upcoming surge of international visitors.
But in the last six years, memories of the 2002 Winter Olympics have faded into the background, somewhere in a seldom-used closet there may be a box of pins, berets, ticket stubs and other Olympic paraphernalia, but we no longer feel compelled to stamp every post-it note with an Olympic logo.
Nevertheless, those memories are sure to be reawakened this week as the Olympic flame burns in Beijing’s National Stadium, and as national anthems are played while athletes bow to accept their hard-won medals.
It was a magical month in February 2002. Americans were still just beginning to regain their equilibrium after the 9/11 attacks and the Salt Lake Olympic committee had come under extra scrutiny following the host city bribery scandal. But when the spotlight turned on the Wasatch Mountains, Park City’s venues and Main Street sparkled. In fact, as the TV networks panned over the city we could hardly believe how beautiful our hometown looked.
We can only wish the same for Beijing, and all of China.
So far, international criticism has been harsh of China’s politics and of its pollution. But we hope the infusion of international athletes, press and tourism will be so overwhelmingly positive for Beijing’s residents that they will no longer feel the need to suppress outside influences and new ideas. We hope, too, that Beijing will show the rest of us that it is possible, even for a city of 15 million people, to turn the tide on air pollution.
Many lessons were learned from the 2002 Games, among them that the world could still convene despite terrorism, that reforming the host city selection process was long overdue and that Olympic officials needed to take a much stronger stand against performance enhancing drugs.
There will be a lot to learn from the 2008 Games as well.
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Park City intends to soon seat an internal task force that will study issues within the municipal government itself related to the LGBTQ community.