Amy Peterson, a four-time Olympian in short track speed skating, has been selected by her U.S. teammates to carry the American flag in Friday night's Winter Games Opening Ceremonies in Salt Lake City. Eight U.S. Olympic athletes have been chosen to carry the tattered World Trade Center flag.
The so-called "Ground Zero Flag" was found in the ruins of the World Trade Center after last September's terror attacks. After several discussions here between Salt Lake, U.S. and International Olympic Committee officials, it was decided that that flag would be included in the parade of athletes and be raised during the opening ceremonies.
The USOC named one athlete from each of eight sports to carry the flag. Mark Grimmette, a three-time Olympian and a 1998 bronze medallist, said he was humbled to be part of the group. And he emphasized that since people from 80 countries died in the attacks, the flag does not just represent the United States.
"It represents all the victims who were at the World Trade Center and who died that day. And one of the things our team did throughout this season is we had a sticker on our sled that said, 'we remember the innocent victims of September 11.' When we showed up to the [luge] tracks to slide with that, other counties came up to our team manager and said, 'Can we have some of those stickers?' And by the last World Cup [race], just about all the nations that were on our World Cup circuit had them on their sleds," he said.
As for the regular United States delegation flag, short track speed skater Amy Peterson will have the honor of carrying it in the Olympic opening ceremonies.
Peterson is a three-time Olympic medal winner and an eight-time U.S. short track speed skating champion.
"I'm just very honored to be chosen by my fellow athletes to carry the flag for them into the Olympic stadium. It's pretty overwhelming. Regardless of September 11 or not, it's an honor, and September 11 just adds that much more pride of being an American and carrying that flag," he said.
The Athletes' Oath at the Opening Ceremonies will be recited by American Jim Shea Jr., who competes in skeleton in that sport's return to the Olympic games. He will become America's first third-generation Winter Games athlete following his grandfather and father. His grandfather recited the Athletes' Oath at the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics, so Shea said this will be very special.
Jim's father will be watching here, but his grandfather died tragically in a car accident last month.
"You know, my grandfather said a long time ago, I am a big believer that the Olympics are about bringing the world together. It's about celebrating humanity. It's about competing in fair play. It's about the experience. To me personally, it's not necessarily about bringing home the gold medal. It's about being in the Olympic village. It's about welcoming the world in a peaceful, friendly competition. I think that's the most important thing to me that I really want to put first," he said.
Jim Shea Jr. was selected to recite the athletes' oath by a vote of captains of the U.S. Olympic winter sports teams, and he called it a tremendous honor.