Romney celebrates anniversary of 2002 Winter Olympics
Fifteen years later, former presidential candidate recalls Games
Volunteers and workers at Deer Valley Resort brought out the podium and backdrop for the athletes who finished in the Top 3, as Friday night’s portion of the Visa Freestyle International came to a close.
Hundreds of spectators stood in the dark as millions of snowflakes poured down. But before the athletes made it to the podium, a familiar face sporting a dark navy blue 2002 Winter Olympics leather jacket grabbed the microphone.
Fans in attendance at the front of the pack immediately discovered it was Mitt Romney, President and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics and former Republican presidential candidate. It didn’t take long, however, for the rest of the crowd to catch on once they heard his recognizable voice.
It wasn’t an Olympic event, but Romney, along with his Olympic partner Fraser Bullock and Deer Valley General Manager Bob Wheaton, was there to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Park City played an integral part in hosting the competitions and festivities.
“[The Visa Freestyle International] brought back memories of the great days in 2002,” Romney started off.
He then explained volunteers’ contributions to the 2002 Winter Olympics were vital. Like it was in 2002, the volunteer effort was huge in running the World Cup events at Deer Valley this last weekend. Those efforts, both past and present, did not go unnoticed.
“The volunteers made the Games a Games you will never forget,” Romney continued. “The people of Utah opened their homes, opened their hearts to these athletes in the world. … We love the people here. … Thanks Utah, for these great experiences.”
Deer Valley wasn’t Romney’s only stop during the weekend celebration. He also swung by the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center on Saturday, where the venue was nearing the end of its week-long hosting of the USANA FIS Nordic Junior World Ski Championships. Romney was again accompanied by Bullock, and he spoke and mingled with the hundreds of crowd members.
Though the well-known businessman and politician only stopped at the Olympic venues for a few hours, the 2002 Winter Games was honored throughout the duration of each marquee event that took place in the area. By hosting such races and competitions, places such as Deer Valley, the Utah Olympic Park and Soldier Hollow have kept up their Olympic-level standards and conditions from 15 years ago.
“There’s no place like this,” Romney said of Deer Valley with Wheaton by his side. “The athlete experience couldn’t be better. Whether you’re just a skier at Deer Valley or whether you’re an athlete who’s a professional like the competitors [on Friday night], Deer Valley makes an experience like no other.”
Being Park City, it’s true that the local venues will continue to host non-Olympic winter sport competitions as long as they are up and running. But should the stars ever align for a second Winter Olympic Games in the area — the idea has been thrown around — they’ll be ready.
“There’s going to be more events coming,” Romney said. “We’re going to get a chance to see more of these great athletes.”