By REBECCA NEYENHUIS
Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney kissed the ice to show his enthusiasm for the 2002 Games at the grand opening ceremony of the Peaks Ice Arena Wednesday night. Hundreds of people attended the ceremony, which was open to the public.
“Congratulations to Provo! What a job you’ve done!” Romney said.
Alema Harrington, of KSL Sports, serving as Master of Ceremonies, told the audience to get excited.
“This is your games. It is OK to have national pride, state pride, Utah pride, Provo pride,” Harrington said.
Romney spoke briefly, emphasizing the Olympics will involve all of Utah.
“These games I want you to know, are going to be wonderful, not just here but across the Wasatch front,” Romney said.
Provo Mayor Lewis Billings, chair of the Ice Sheet Authority, also spoke on the legacy of the Peaks.
“You know, in just a few months we will literally host the world right here in Provo,” Billings said.
Billings said the people of Utah County have a unique understanding of all people and cultures. He welcomed the world to Provo and challenged citizens to be the best hosts of the Olympic venue.
The Peaks will be used to host the women’s hockey and as a practice ground. Billings said construction on the Peaks was a cooperative effort between Provo City, Utah County, SLOC, Seven Peaks Management Company, L.L.C. and the Utah Sports Authority.
No taxes were raised to gain funds, Billings said.
Following the speakers were demonstrations of speed skating, hockey and figure skating, put on by local aspiring athletes. A ribbon was cut by a pair of scissors made of hockey sticks and fireworks went off to celebrate the official opening.
After the formal ceremonies were over, there was free public skating. Curling and hockey were demonstrated on the other rink. The skating was a big draw.
“I knew that the kids would like the fireworks and demonstrations and I wanted to go skating,” said Angel Howlett, a Provo resident.
After the Olympic festivities, officials from Seven Peaks said they hoped the facility will be used by local athletes. Billings shared their view for the future.
“We want kids everywhere in Utah County to use this facility,” Billings said.
Provo residents say they are excited about the games coming to Provo, despite the traffic it will generate.