By Micah Davis
The Olympic flame finally made its way into Provo at 7:30 p.m. last night, Feb. 5, after leaving St. George and passing through Richfield and Nephi on its journey.
“It”s been a huge planning effort,” Provo Mayor Lewis Billings said, emphasizing that it has taken countless hours of service by many volunteers to prepare for the event.
Spectators crowded the torch procession in the chilly air, blocked traffic and cheered the torchbearers as each made their journey of approximately 0.2 miles.
The torch entered Provo by way of Center Street and at the torchbearers running pace slowly traversed in a zigzag pattern through the city to Peaks Arena and then it made its way to LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The flame passed through the hands of each of the chosen torchbearers before finally passing into the hands of former BYU head football coach LaVell Edwards.
“It”s really an interesting experience to see people pass the torch to one another,” Billings said. “Seeing the flame has real power, and that is needed for the country – especially after September.”
Jennifer Roper, a Provo resident who carried the torch earlier in the day through Centerfield, San Pete County said that carrying the torch was a unique experience for her.
“It was great,” she said. “The spirit of it was just overwhelming. I cried on the shuttle, I cried while I was carrying it, I cried the whole time.”
Roper was nominated after nominating her mother, Christine Ollerton, director of the BYU Creative Dance Department, who ran the torch through part of campus near the Smith Fieldhouse.
“I attended the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea, and have always thought it would be awesome to be a torchbearer,” Roper said.
With the flame in the hands of its final runner, it was taken into LaVell Edwards Stadium, where it was used to light a temporary cauldron similar to the actual cauldron that will be lit in Rice-Eccles Stadium at the end of the torch relay on Friday, Feb. 8.
As Edwards ran up the stairs to the stage area, the crowd roared with approval.
Richard Hill, Executive Producer of the Provo Olympic Relay Celebration, said a huge effort went into planning last night”s torch celebration.
“The SLOC and Torch Relay Committees have been working on this for eight months,” Hill said. All the time spent in the planning has paid off.
Miss Utah, Jaclyn Hunt said watching the lighting of the torch was a very intense moment she has looked forward to for a long time.
With approximately 35,000 to 40,000 citizens of the world in the stadium parking lot, cold temperatures did not dampen Olympic spirits.
Shari Hales, 20, a graduate student from Spanish Fork, Utah County, majoring in Health Promotion said, “When we finally saw the torch light up, we were very excited.”
Other Provo torchbearers were also excited to see the cauldron ignited.
Jacob Jenkins, a Provo torchbearer who went around Town Centre Mall, said carrying the torch meant a lot to him.
As spectators leaned on their toes, the crowd as a whole was in awe of the spectacle.
Arianne Rau, 20, a junior from Bent, Ore., majoring in pre-social work said she felt excited because the torch finally made it to Provo.