Utah residents remember unity during Salt Lake Olympics 10 years later

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Ten years after the Salt Lake Olympics, memories of that time still burn brightly in Utahns’ hearts, especially in Utah county. Residents, BYU professors and alumni alike still treasure the memories of unity created during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Janet Swenson, the chair of design and technology at BYU, recalls the unity she felt within her family during the 2002 Olympics. Swenson represented the United States in the ’60 and ’64 Olympics as a long track speed skater and was appointed to be the co-chair for the ethics committee for the Salt Lake City Olympics. Some of her family members came to volunteer, and they stayed with her for a month, creating an experience she says she’ll always remember.

“It was the only time in our lives that we were together for something other than a holiday,” she said. “A lot of families and friends (volunteered) together.”

Unity within schools was also prominent during the Olympics. The University of Utah cancelled 18 class days, and BYU even cancelled classes for four days to encourage students to volunteer. Laurel Richardson, a BYU graduate, said many students took a vacation during that four-day break, but she remembers many also volunteered. She said it created a unique feeling on campus after the Olympics.

[media-credit name=”Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo” align=”alignright” width=”240″][/media-credit]
LaVell Edwards participates in the 2002 Olympic Torch Relay on campus on February 5, 2002.
“The ones that volunteered got Olympic coats, and they wore them around campus, so you could always tell … It was just fun,” Richardson said.

The Salt Lake City Olympics took place just months after 9/11, and many also recall the overwhelming sense of unity as a country.

“It was a scary time and people were concerned about security, but the patriotism was high,” said Swenson. “That’s the beauty of the Olympics. You get to wear your red, white and blue and represent your country.”

Those who participated in the Olympics, both on and off the cameras, came away with memories of not only uniting as a country, but also uniting as a global community. Candice Wilson is among those. She was a part of the UVSC dance company before she transferred to BYU, and the team was asked to perform during the Olympics. Though she said it was an exciting experience, one memory rises above the rest.

“We met the German snowboarding team and learned that they … paid for a bunch of kids that lost their parents on 9/11,” Wilson said. “Here they are from a different country, and are (willing to help). Really that’s what the Olympics was all about.”

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