My father and I had so many great experiences at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympics it’s not even funny. To sum them up in three brief entries is impossible as I created a whole scrapbook of the event, and still could’ve put more in there about what we did and saw. From watching Americans Casey Fitzrandolph and Kip Carpenter win gold and bronze, respectively, in the men’s 500m speed skating to the fun times we had out in Park City, Utah, there’s just so much that I could say. But really, nothing can top our ride to our first event, men’s downhill skiing, in terms of absurdity.
We woke up bright and early on our first day there to head to the bus station. I had booked private coach for us to all of our events. From what I read, traffic was going to be a nightmare so I figured it best to let a local do the driving for us so we can sit back and socialize with other Olympic spectators.
It was a cold winter morning before 6am as we trudged through snow drifts past other Olympic venues, trying to make our way to the bus station. As it turns out, we were a little over zealous in getting there, arriving before anyone else. As we weren’t sure how long of a walk it was though, it was probably best we left early. Still though, it was a cold morning no matter how many layers we had on.
When the bus finally arrived, late, the driver had no idea where we were to go. He even turned around, to the group he was supposed to transport, and asked us if he knew where we were supposed to go and how we were to get there. A collective groan was released as we were already on edge due to his tardiness. And when we got on the road, it didn’t get any better either as it was like finding a needle in a haystack for him.
It certainly didn’t help either that the windshield kept frosting up, making it impossible for the driver to see the road. A pair of passengers pulled out credit cards, along with anything else they thought would work, and attempted to scrape off the glass as we chugged along, but their efforts did little more than create a small hole through which the driver could see.
The ineptness of it all was quite dumbfounding. I mean, first the bus driver arrives late. Then, once he’s finally there, he has no idea where he’s supposed to go. When we tell him where to go, he leaves without actually knowing how to get there. And then, to top it all off, he couldn’t get the heater and defrost to work properly so he could see where we were going.
Yeah, we ended up arriving late. But that’s also because traffic into the venue was horrible. As it turns out, Salt Lake Olympic Committee President Mitt Romney – yeah, that Mitt Romney – was actually out there directing traffic. As we missed half of the event, including all three medal winners, it makes me shudder to think of what it would’ve been like had he ended up running the country, but that was neither here nor there at this point as he wasn’t running for President quite yet.
Regardless of it all, we still had a great time during what we saw of the event. I was able to squeeze my big frame up to the front of the general admission area to stand right along the railing to cheer the skiers coming down the hill, including the 9th place American finisher. But, what truly exemplified the Olympic spirit at the event for me was when I saw an Irish, yeah an Irish, skier crash only to get back up and finish the race. When he fell he knew there was no way he was going to medal, he probably even knew that going in, but he got up nonetheless and tried his best to finish strong. It was quite an impressive showing of sportsmanship.
In general our first Olympic event experience was disappointing. I know no other word to sum it all up as we missed so much. Despite all that though, we had a great time and were happy to be there among the crowd of people to celebrate the Games and the spirit of competition. That great feeling hung with us wherever we went during our week in Utah, and it’s one that still comes alive in me when I see the Olympics on television. It really is an experience like none other and one that I would recommend for anyone to take hold of if given the chance.