Church lends a hand in Oly preparations

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    By Michelle Jensen

    With the Olympics less than a month away, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir continues to prepare for opening ceremonies, while other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and BYU students continue volunteer efforts, taking pressure off SLOC.

    For the first time ever, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir will sing in the Olympics under the direction of composer John Williams.

    Williams wrote the theme music to “Jaws” and “Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom.” His piece is designated as the official theme of the Olympics.

    The choir will also perform several free concerts for the public. The LDS Web site said a free public performance will follow the choir”s weekly performance of “The Spoken Word” for the two weeks of the Olympics.

    “Latter-day Saints have a well-earned reputation for rendering community service,” said the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a letter released in 1998.

    SLOC was overwhelmed by the response.

    “We needed 20,000 plus volunteers and we got close to 70,000 volunteer applications,” said Bill Shaw, Government Relations for SLOC. “You have to say this-the people of Utah are very volunteer oriented.”

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has loaned land to SLOC for use during the Olympics.

    According to the LDS Web site, land includes property for the Medal Plaza, park and ride facilities in Park City and access to the Winter Sports Park.

    BYU students are given a week off in February to better help in the Olympics. The break coincides with the second week of the Olympics, allowing student volunteers to miss less class.

    “I didn”t like that we didn”t get much of a Christmas break but I guess it all evens out with a week in February,” said Ryan Simmons, 21, a sophmore from Bambridge Island, Wash., majoring in theatre arts. “Especially since I am going to be working at the Olympics.”

    According to Lee Bartlett, BYU”s Olympic Coordinator, the University also arranged for several groups on campus to perform as part of the celebration.

    Performances include opening and closing ceremonies and more than 80 shows throughout the Olympics.

    “Groups include the Ballroom Dance Company, Chamber Orchestra and University Singers,” said Shane Wright, Regional Coordinator for the Performing Arts Department. “Performances will be in almost every venue, small to large.”

    “BYU is also preparing to host dignitaries and journalists,” Bartlett said, “We have already had dozens of calls and even some news crews out to campus.”

    “The Church has a good working relationship with SLOC and has encouraged members to become Olympic volunteers…,” said Kim Farah, official spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church has saved SLOC more than $5 million from property and volunteer labor, according to the LDS Web site.

    “It is important to remember, though, that the church does not want this to become the ”Mormon Olympics”,” Shaw said. “They just wanted to help as much as they could.”

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