20 years later: Remembering some of the key sites, memories of the Salt Lake 2002 Olympics


(ABC4) – For fans of local nostalgia and the Olympics, this week matters.

Coming athletes in curling and luge will begin the first competition of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China on Wednesday. The Games will open in their traditionally ceremonial fashion on Friday and run until February 20. The occasion will no doubt be sentimental for Utahns, as the Games will also mark 20 years since the Olympic fire burned brightly in Salt Lake.

A lot has changed over the past two decades, especially in Utah. As the Olympic spirit is in vogue and a milestone anniversary of one of the biggest events to ever pitch its tent in the state approaches, ABC4.com thought it would be interesting to look back on some memories. emblematic of the 2002 Games, namely the places and memories that remain – or not – 20 years later.


Maverik Center

The Russian (L), Canadian (C) and American flags fly during the award ceremonies after the men’s ice hockey final at the XIX Winter Olympics February 24, 2002 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images)

The center of some of the biggest and most important games in men’s and women’s ice hockey tournaments, the Maverik Center (at the time it was known as “The E Center”) still has some remnants of his time on the Olympic stage.

Some Olympic signage pieces still sit in the parking lot, and most of the arena, which opened in 1997, has remained unchanged since 2002. However, one of the coolest and best tributes to the Games is not is not easily seen or visible to the public.

In the bowels of the arena, on the walls of a room now used for storage, are autographs from the Canadian men’s hockey team, which they signed after celebrating their gold medal victory against the United States.

Photo by ABC4.com

Kept behind plexiglass, an autograph from a Canadian hockey player left a bit of misspelled foul language after the win.


It was 5-2, by the way.

Rice Eccles Stadium

February 8, 2002: Fireworks light up the sky over the stadium for the Grand Finals of the Opening Ceremony of the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics at Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah . (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Prior to hosting the 2002 Games, Utah’s longtime football program headquarters underwent a major renovation to bring it up to Olympic standards to host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as well as house the cauldron Olympic. This renovation almost completely redid the stadium and added the press and luxury suites on the west side.

Recently, the stadium had a facelift to complete the ring of seating around the pitch, requiring the facility to move the Olympic cauldron from its place behind the south side scoreboard to a display just outside the gates of the stadium. southwest corner.

Another relic of the Games, the iconic Hoberman Arch, which was the defining symbol of the medal ceremony, once had its place at the stadium after the Olympics, but has since been removed and all indications show that it has almost completely disappeared. or forgotten by Salt Lake City officials.

Utah Olympic Oval

February 22, 2002: Coaches of the Netherlands watch Jachem Uytdehaage set a new world record of 12.58.92 in the men’s 10,000m speed skating event at the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City at the Utah Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Built specifically for the Games, the Utah Olympic Oval has remained one of the most important speed skating venues in the world and serves as the year-round training base for Team USA. Due to the elevation of the area, it is considered the “fastest ice in the world”, as the thinner air creates less resistance for the skaters and puts less oxygen into the ice itself, the making it harder and denser and therefore ideal for speed skating. .

Inside the 400-meter oval, the facility, which resembles a giant airplane hangar with sweeping views of the rink, is home to two hockey rinks and is also surrounded by a running track.

Because it has been maintained by the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation since the Games, the Oval is still in excellent condition and ready for use should the Olympics return to Salt Lake.

And if you want to try skating, this is a great place for public skating.


Volunteer clothing

Volunteers set up fencing near the finish area of ​​the Olympic men’s and women’s alpine skiing events February 05, 2002, in Snow Basin, Utah, days before the start of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. (DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)

Once in a while, at a ski resort or just in town, you might spot someone donning one of the most iconic local Olympics souvenirs, an official volunteer fleece vest or jacket. Designed in bright orange, yellow or purple colors with a large-scale Olympic snowflake and rings on the back, the garment was worn by volunteers at work and in the years following the Games it still appears from time to time. in time or has been tucked away as a unique and fun keepsake of an unforgettable Utah winter.

Volunteers have been credited with playing an important role in the success of the Games in Salt Lake, with more than 70,000 locals applying for just over 20,000 available positions. While they weren’t paid for their time and services to help run a relatively smooth Olympic experience, they were at least treated to some cool freebies.

USA team berets

Team USA, including figure skater Michelle Kwan (bottom center), enter Rice-Eccles Stadium for the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics, February 8, 2002, in Salt Lake City , UT. (Photo by Tim De Waele/Getty Images)

One of the most prized souvenirs from the 2002 Games was the official Team USA beret, made by Canadian outfitter Roots and worn by the USA delegation during the Opening Ceremony. The hat was hugely popular with fans, retailing for $19.95, with the line of people looking to buy one at the Roots store in Park City heading out the door and onto the street. At one time it was an expensive item for scalpers looking to cash in on the trend, but nowadays you can get one on eBay for around $10.

Green jelly pins

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – FEBRUARY 9: Pin exchange in progress outside the Main Media Center during the Salt Lake Winter Olympics on February 9, 2002 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by John Gichigi/Getty Images)

One of the most popular activities surrounding the Salt Lake Games was collecting and trading collector pins. As has been an Olympic tradition since the 1980s, pin collecting in the official Olympic Plaza shopping area – something Coca-Cola sponsored – was a must-see attraction in downtown Salt Lake City.

There were all sorts of quirky, officially licensed pins celebrating the Games, the nations involved, and Utah’s culture, but perhaps the most memorable was the pin celebrating the unofficial dessert of choice. State, Green Jello. Recently, one of these pins, still in its original packaging from 20 years ago, sold on eBay for $99.95.

Tell us!

What else do you remember from the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games? Let us know in the Facebook comments below!

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