My Olympic Experience
In the 2002 Winter Olympics I was fortunate to be assigned as a volunteer Press Steward in the Sub-Media Center in Park City. This was the venue for Halfpipe and Snowboard Parallel Slalom, and Ski Grand Slalom.
Below is a day by day diary-type account of my experience, including family and friends' visits. Click on any thumbnail to enter a slide show starting with that photo. Then click on "Prev" or "Next" to view more photos, or click on "Exit" to return to this page.
Sunday, Feb 3
I had a very early flight direct from Newark to Salt Lake City. As I came down the stairs in the Salt Lake City airport to the baggage area I saw a sea of blue coated volunteers lined up like limo drivers to greet their assigned guests. I spoke to some of them while we all waited for luggage and asked about the uniforms. They are color coded according to the job assignment.
I picked up a rental car and drove straight to the Team 2002 Processing Center (TPC). It was easy to find, and there was a parking spot at the door. This day is going well! Everybody at TPC was super friendly. It was fun. First I picked up my free tickets (Opening ceremony dress rehearsal and Medals Plaza), then watched a training film. It emphasized friendliness and good manners. From the working volunteers I've encountered so far, this training film is very effective.
I followed footsteps painted on the floor to get my picture taken and photo ID. I tried on jacket and pants for size. Then down the assembly line where I was issued a large carrying bag and, item by item, a full uniform (jacket, vest, fleece top plus an extra, ski pants, gloves, liners, hat, head band, baseball cap) plus some cosmetics and snacks. At checkout I paid for the extra fleece top and everything was sealed in the bag. I was told not to break the seal until I was outside the building. My uniform was blue, my favorite color. This has been a VERY GOOD DAY!
Monday, Feb 4
The ski pants were waaaay too long. Someone suggested shortening them with masking tape, but I took the pants to an alteration shop. The final price for the alteration was about $80. I wasn't about to quibble. With all the free clothes I'd been given, $80 was bargain.
Because I'm 70 yrs old, I can now ski free at Park City, and so I got my pass and skied that afternoon.
Tuesday, Feb 5
Trudy Murrill, a hiking friend from New Jersey who is spending her winter in Park City came to visit. We picked up my ski pants and went skiing. WOW, this is special.
Wednesday, Feb 6
My first day at work as a volunteer. I waited at the bus stop, but two women in Olympic uniforms gave me a ride. It turns out we're in the same media room. They took me under their collective wing (they'd started two days earlier) through the checkin process.
The Media Center is a HUGE tent. There's a staff meeting first, then job assignments. I didn't get one that day, so I was free to go up the mountain.
One lady was especially nice. June walked up the bleachers to the very top to show me the scene, which is how I took the photos at left. June, incidentally, has a 10 yr old daughter who hopes to be an Olympian in 2010.
Today was a practice day for snow boarders on the half pipe. They're awesome. They go down sometimes three or four at a time.
The Opening Ceremony Dress Rehearsal was this evening, and I carpooled with Trudy and another friend, Judy Ahern who I met last year at the Freestyle World Cup. We drove to the Park and Ride in Salt Lake City, then took the bus to Rice Eccles Stadium. There was a long check in but we had plenty of time so it wasn't a problem. The show, as everyone knows by now, was wonderful. I recognized a lot of Disney ideas from Lion King, but here they were bigger and the number of ice skaters was truly amazing. Many were children. We were in the second row, and could really see the energy of the dancers. The two planes circling overhead for security were a reminder of the outside world but did not detract from the show..
Thursday, Feb 7
I spent the morning at the Help Desk. After lunch I went up on the hill and got some photos. Around 2:30 PM most of us went out to see the torch runner come down Park Ave. There was a nice comradship among the volunteers while waiting for the runner.
I got home just as our son DJ and his friend Mike arrived. Our other son Tom was close behind with our two grandsons and their 14 yr old uncle. Mike brought a wonderful Olympic throw to enhance the condo, and he hung the American flag from the upper deck. That's spirit!
Friday, Feb 8
SNOW! Training was cancelled, and I stayed in the media tent most of the day.
DJ and Mike hiked to the Ski Jump site at Olympic Park, only to have the event cancelled because of high winds. They did receive pins for completing the hike though.
Saturday, Feb 9
Our daughter Laura Klebosky and her husband Tom arrived around 9:00 PM with their three children. The five cousins were delighted to see each other. My husband Charlie got in around 11:00 PM We are now complete, with thirteen people in the condo. All beds and sofabeds are in use.
Sunday, Feb 10 -- Women's Halfpipe
First "event day" at Park City. There's a lot of excitement in the air. Charlie tried to drive me to work, but NO. Couldn't turn left onto Park Ave. He did a U turn and I walked in.
DJ and Mike were turned away at the ski jump, even though they had stubs from Friday. They recovered by obtaining tickets to the Women's Halfpipe. Wish I had known they were among the spectators.
In the media center there's alot of activity until the event starts and again after it ends. During the event most news people are on the hill.
A stray dog wandered into the tent with no ID. There were many jokes about security. Michelle called the local radio station to announce his description. A neighbor heard it, called the owner who picked up the dog just ten minutes before animal control was to arrive. Everyone was happy with the outcome.
Meanwhile, in the condo, Uncle DJ is sharing Oreos with his favorite niece Kate. Cute.
Monday, Feb 11 -- Men's Halfpipe
USA swept all three medals. I watched the final run and went to the interview session after the event. It was delayed a LONG time because the athletes were given too much water. It diluted the samples for doping! They (and a couple hundred news people) had to wait then for it to concentrate.
Some happenings during the day: (1) The Visa card machine was not working in the reporters snack room and the people to fix it were not accredited to enter the tent. I said come ahead -- we'll figure it out. Two people came from Salt Lake via the shuttle to find the machine unplugged. (2) A photographer called to ask about photographing the prince and princess of Norway. The answer was "Snap what you can from the photographers' area, but you may not disturb the royalty". That's how I knew royalty were in the audience, and got my own photo later. (3) A German snow boarder (medal contender) wiped out on his first run, but took his second run anyway -- straight down the pipe, arms raised in acknowledgment of the roar of applause from the spectators. It was a class act, considering his disappointment.
Tuesday, Feb 12
A day off. Charlie and I babysat granddaughter Kate. We took her to see the Budweiser Clydesdale horses in the afternoon. They were harnessing them for the 4:00 PM appearance on Main Street.
Wednesday, Feb 13
This was a short day. I came home early and got Kate to take her up to the Park City Mountain Resort on the chance we would run into the rest of the family. We were in luck. The grandkids had just come out of ski school and were about to take a couple runs with their parents. Kate and I watched folk on a trampoline while waiting for the skiers to finish their last run together.
Thursday, Feb 14 -- Parallel Giant Slalom Qualification
Valentine's Day. Judi brought in candy for everyone in the media tent. Judi is always doing something thoughtful. for others -- to the point of sewing our supervisor's pants to keep him decent.
I liked the sportsmanship I saw in the snowboarders. Although they raced against each other, every pair shook hands at the bottom.
The spectators were a show in themselves. Here are some photos from various days.
Friday, Feb 15 -- Parallel Giant Slalom Finals
Chris Klug (USA) won bronze. It's an amazing story, because he had a liver transplant less than two years ago. The press conference was well attended. Toward the end of the interview Philipp Schoch, the gold medallist from Switzerland, came into the back of the room, with some press surrounding him and talking. It caused a disturbance and really was quite rude to Klug. But when Klug was finished, most reporters got up and left -- also quite rude, I thought, to the gold medallist.
The whole family went to the Canyons in the evening for fireworks and the Budweiser Aerial Demonstration show. It was excellent.
Saturday, Feb 16
My daughter and family left, and my good friend Dot Kettley arrived. Charlie picked her up at the airport and they drove to Provo to watch the women's hocky team from Canada play against (and beat) the team from Sweden.
Dot is special. She and I worked together years ago when we were both single. She was a skier -- a racer. She came to work every winter Monday full of stories about her weekend skiing. She also knew all about the Olympics and the athletes involved. I hung on every word. We've kept in touch through the years, and eventually got to ski together.
Ten years ago we were on a chair lift and saw two older women laughing and obviously enjoying themselves. Dot said "That's us in ten years." and I replied "Oh, I hope so!" Well, this is the year, and the Olympics is a bonus we didn't expect, but thoroughly appreciate. This is our week.
Charlie, Dot and I skied at Park City and then went in to Salt Lake City. I had one ticket to the Medals Plaza which had been issued to me free. I was astonished to find scalpers hawking tickets for $40 to $70. I was interested to see the day's medals awarded, but didn't last long at the rock concert that followed. Yet it was the rock concert that attracted folk who would pay a scalper's price for a ticket. Charlie and Dot enjoyed a pleasant dinner at Shuller's Steak House while I attended the medals ceremony.
Monday, Feb 18
Charlie, Dot and I attended the Women's Aerials event in Deer Valley where Australia's Alisa Camplin won the Gold. Of special interest to me was to note the differences between this Olympic event and the World Cup Aerials event that I volunteered at last year. It was the same hill, but a totally different look. An unexpected friendliness occurred upon leaving, when the yellow coated volunteers formed a line and each gave a smile, high five, handshake, whatever to each spectator leaving. I learned months later that this was part of security. They were keeping spectators from wandering into areas they didn't belong in. What a tactful way to do it!
We spent the afternoon on Main Street. Here are a few scenes:
Tuesday, Feb 19
Kate Albers came to ski with Charlie. Kate is Charlie's first cousin, and was working at the Olympics in Salt Lake City. She and I both happened to have this day off. Dot and I ski at a different pace than Charlie and Kate, so we just joined them for lunch at Mid Mountain. When lifts closed, we all met back at the condo for a longer visit.
Wednesday, Feb 20
On the way to work, I recognized a lady I had met last year at the Snowboard World Cup. She volunteers at so many ski races that she is known by just about everyone. And the reason everyone remembers her is that she gives out candy, and in fact, is called "The Candy Lady". We walked together as far as the "mag and bag" checkin. It was a treat (literally) to meet her again.
It snowed all day, and training was cancelled. Our Venue Press Chief, Charlie, took the volunteers on a tour of the media area on the mountain to familiarize everyone with the changed configuration. The field volunteers (green coats) were busy packing down the snow and we helped by stomping enmasse across the photographers' area. Some snowballs were thrown. We were sent home early.
Dot and Charlie had no plans, so we just hung out and worked on a jigsaw puzzle in the afternoon. Around 6:00 PM we went to Legacy Lodge expecting a gathering of our volunteers, but it was a Picabo Street autograph signing session. I reminded Picabo of a previous meeting a couple years ago when she encouraged me to volunteer for the Olympics. I happened to have my volunteer diploma with me, and she wrote "Way to follow through" on it and signed it. That's real special to me now.
Meanwhile, Charlie struck up a conversation with Nick Frankl , a bobsled driver for Hungary, who happened to be standing nearby. I enjoyed telling him about my bobsled ride the first year the track was in. I truly admire anyone with the courage and reflexes to steer a sled down that run.
Thursday, Feb 21 -- Men's Giant Slalom.
A beautiful day. That's what I love about Utah. When it snows it snows hard, and then it clears up and there's blue sky and sunshine again. On nice days like this, there were tables outside where we could take our lunch. Usually costumed performers passed by as they made their way to the stadium to entertain the crowd.
Friday, Feb 22 -- Women's Giant Slalom
Our last day, and it's sunny and hot. I didn't stay long on the hill.
After the event, our group hung around signing each other's posters. There were mixed feelings, and a reluctance to leave. We know we won't see each other again.
Charlie (our venue chief) passed out copies of the group shot he took on Wednesday. Gregg read a list of individual Thank You's that he'd composed. June drove me home, which was nice closure to her earlier kindness on my first day when she showed me around and climbed to the top of the stadium with me.
Here are some more shots of our team members:
Charlie and Dot went to see the 4-man bobsled runs at the Olympic Park. They walked from the bottom of the run to the top to see the exciting start, when the teams jump into the sled. Olympic events have world-class spectators, too!
Although I didn't get to ski with my family this year, I had a very special and very personal Olympic experience. So did each family member too (6 yr old Kyle won Gold in the Nastar slalom race).
I still haven't seen Sara Hughes' gold medal performance, nor hardly any of the TV coverage. But I got behind the scenes in one venue and worked with an awesome group of people. They came from Utah, Alaska, California, Illinois, even Brooklyn, NY. We all worked as a team and had fun too. The memories will linger for a long long time.
Charlie and I stayed in Park City for another two weeks after the Olympics ended. DJ and Mike returned to ski along with Jason, Julie, Glen and Dan. We watched each day as the stadium was dismantled. Dan took some really great photos.
We'll all watch Torino in 2006 with new insights.