SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – On the 20-year anniversary of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, the legacy of the games can still be seen throughout the state and with the people who were there.
The 2002 Winter Games are considered by many as the most successful Winter Olympics ever. There were tremendous athletes, great competition, thousands of volunteers, the games made money, and left a lasting legacy.
“I think the games here really kind of opened the box to what Utah is,” ‘said Derek Parra, who set a world record in winning the gold medal in long track speedskating at the 2002 Winter Olympics. “No one knew where Utah was or how much of a gem it was, and you can see the population has grown over the last 20 years. Everybody saw it on TV, took a chance to come here, loved it, the skiing, the outdoor activities, the spirit is still here from the games.”
Mark Walker has lasting memories of the 2002 Winter Olympics. As the director of Media, he oversaw the torch relay that stretched across the country.
“The Olympic spirit that you felt in every community that we went across the country visiting with the torch was incredible,” Walker said.
Utah ski resorts were being heavily used before the Winter Games, and continue to do so. But unlike many other host sites around the world, the venues that werer built are still here and are all still being used. That bodes well for Salt Lake’s bid to host the 2030 or 2034 Olympics.
“There have been so many venues that have been built up in the past [Winter] Games that are now warehouses, tractor trailer pulls, used for monster truck events,” said Parra, who is now the Director of Sports at the Utah Olympic Oval. This building is being used for what it was built for, as well as the Olympic Park and Soldier Hollow. Every year we have more uses than the previous year, so the legacy is strong.”
All of the Olympic venues are used by not only recreational athletes here in Utah, but also used for training by the next generation of Olympic athletes.
“There was just a lot of good that came out of this,” Walker said. and so now these athletes preparing for the Games coming up, they can spend time here in the next year or 18 months training for the competition that is about to happen.”
“You see these kids that are coming up through the grass roots level,” Parra said. “They see the Olympic rings on the wall. They’re driven and they’re passionate by our coaches that are here and they’re inspired. We have a few cases where we have kids that have come through the grass roots, through our program to now the Olympic team for Bejing in 2022.”
And with Salt Lake City pursuing another Olympic bid, we may get to do it all again.