Thursday, May 30
After a morning hike, we drove to the Utah Olympic Park. This is located just outside of Park City at the venue held for skiing and bobsledding. In all, 11 different sites were used to host the 2002 Winter Olympics. This particular site has been designated to maintain an ongoing museum about the Olympics and Utah skiing history. We spent some time getting teary-eyed watching 2002 videos and reading historical placards.
We were fortunate enough to observe some people practicing to be future Olympians. The aerial skiers have three slopes to go down for practice. Since this is the off season, they land in a pool of water. The pool was 10 foot deep and utilizes an air bubble system to cushion their fall. The pool is not heated. The skiers wear rubber suits to keep them dry as well as a life preserver.
We took a bus tour to several vantage points. These were at the bottom of the ski jump, the top of the ski jump, and the top of the luge – bobsled – skeleton kickoff point. Our tour guide was extremely informative and humorous. We will watch the 2014 Winter Olympics with new insight and greater appreciation.
(Lest anyone challenge our desire for adventure, let it be said that the bobsled, zip line, and other activities at the Olympic Park were not open today.)
Our tour guide noted that before skiers go down the ski jump, two or three younger skiers are used as guinea pigs. They make the same jumps that the Olympians do, in order to test the wind and help the judges make adjustments to the starting points. One of these young skiers in 2002 ended up winning a medal eight years later. In 2002, he was 12 years old when he made the practice jump. These people are labeled as forerunners.
Utah Olympic Park is the practice site for several other teams besides the Americans. Australians and Jamaicans are based here. The South Koreans used to practice here but since they will be hosting a future Winter Olympics, they are building their own practice area. The US national team practices here and there is a school ($15,000 per year tuition) for aspiring athletes so they can study during the summer and then ski during the winter in Europe.
The 2002 Winter Olympics were great for Park City and the Salt Lake region. They installed a light rail system, made road improvements, added new winter skiing venues, gave grants to restaurants to expand their capacity, got great publicity and made a profit. Part of the profit was transferred into a Legacy Fund to support the non-profit venues into the future-like Utah Olympic Park.
Our late afternoon and evening activity was at Temple Square. I am not sure of my emotions here. The Mormons have a lot of good going for them but I come into this wondering about any religion that started with polygamy and racism. Then my skepticism of institutions and high commerce come into play as the Church of Latter Day Saints really seemed to dominate and control governmental and commercial activities here.
That being said, Temple Square is a beautiful setting. New floral plantings had just been completed yesterday. The sun was shining and the buildings looked great. Volunteers were everywhere asking if you needed anything or had questions.
This is a major complex. We ate at one of the restaurants in the complex, after being told one was full and that the turkey pot pie would take 20 minutes at the second. Our final choice had good food for a reasonable price. This restaurant was located in Lion House, one of Brigham Young’s residences to hold his more than 20 wives and 50 some children.
We attended a practice performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir which was so-so. It is an open, free practice session and audience members can come and go as they please. The director spent considerable time going over short sections of the music so you rarely got to observe the group at full voice. Still it was worthwhile.
Ed and Chris May 30 11:45 pm