Monday, February 23, 1998
Salt Lake celebrates arrival of Olympic flagSALT LAKE CITY -- (AP) Only 1,446 more days.
That's how much longer Utah will wait for the Winter Games.
But Olympic boosters did not delay their celebration; it began with the closing ceremonies in Nagano, Japan, on Sunday and was culminating Monday afternoon as the Olympic flag was to arrive in Salt Lake City, host for the next Winter Olympics in 2002.
A marching band and water cannons were readied to salute Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini as she stepped off Delta Flight 2002 carrying the white Olympic flag with five interlocking rings.
Planners were expecting thousands at the Delta hangar at Salt Lake City International Airport where the special charter flight was to arrive at 3:30 p.m. MST.
Master of ceremonies was Steve Young, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback and a graduate of Brigham Young in Provo, Utah.
Later, a motorcade was to take the flag -- along with Utah's Olympic athletes -- to the City and County Building, where a Salt Lake 2002 flag will be flown while the real thing goes into a special, locked case for display until 2002.
The flag was a long time coming.
Utah began its quest for the Olympics in 1966, but lost bids to Sapporo, Japan, for the 1972 games; Innsbruck, Austria, for 1976; and Nagano for 1998.
The Nagano decision in 1991 was the toughest, because the IOC vote was a close 46-42. Salt Lake stayed in the hunt, however, applying again four years later for the 2002 Games and this time succeeding on an unprecedented first ballot. It will be the first Winter Games for the United States since Lake Placid, N.Y., in 1980.
"This is a moment all the community can share and long remember," Corradini said.
Frank Joklik, president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, said the arrival of the flag "is a moment we have anticipated since we began the bid process.
"Bringing the flag home ignites great anticipation toward our Winter Games," he said.
The last time Utah celebrated the Olympics -- in June 1995, when the IOC picked Salt Lake City -- some 50,000 gathered at the City-County Building for the party.
On Sunday night, 7,000 gathered at the downtown Delta Center, where they watched the 1998 Games' closing ceremonies on the arena's Jumbotron.
"It's incomprehensible this is coming. It's exciting," said Ken Conrad of Salt Lake City, twirling two mini-American banners.
"I think it's the greatest thing to come here and will be a tremendous boon to us and will be with us forever," said Joan Simard of Salt Lake City.
Utah residents' support for the 2002 Winter Olympics has risen in recent months. According to a January poll for the Deseret News newspaper, 61 percent favor Salt Lake's hosting of the Games.
Support had dropped as low as 53 percent last summer after the man who led Salt Lake's quest for the Olympics for more than a decade, Tom Welch, resigned amid scandal. He pleaded no contest to a spousal abuse charge and was replaced by Joklik.