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Salt Lake City Residents React to Olympics with Enthusiasm - 2002-02-25


As the Winter Olympics conclude, residents of the host city and officials are full of enthusiasm over the experience of the past 17 days.

Sunday, the last day of the Winter Olympics, Utah governor Mike Leavitt said an unexpected theme has emerged at the games. "...And it is the power of human kindness," he said. "It is an emotion that is seen best expressed in the tens of thousands of volunteers and visitors from around the world who have come here."

Mr. Leavitt notes those Olympic volunteers include the head of a Utah company who drove a bus for the athletes and a computer engineer who cleaned their rooms.

One volunteer, Ken Kraus of Salt Lake City, admits he is biased. He works for the Utah state tourism office, but said the games have gone even better than he had expected. "I have to tell you, after two-and-a-half weeks, I'm actually very impressed and not a little amazed at how all the parts came together, the people who came here to visit, the athletes and coaches and teams and the crews who came here to work - the absence of any untoward experience in and around Salt Lake City, the cooperation of the weather," he said. "There were so many things that came together seamlessly, that I think we're going to come out of this thing with an excellent reputation."

It is hard to find anyone here who disagrees, even though there was a problem Saturday night, as riot police used rubber bullets to disperse an unruly crowd outside a beer garden. Twenty people were arrested. There was minor property damage, but no injuries.

Nevertheless, Salt Lake City resident John Bennett said the games caused none of the problems that people predicted, like traffic congestion. "It wasn't stressful like a lot of people from Salt Lake thought it would be, and it's just been very heartening to have it here," he said.

Shoba Tran of Sandy, Utah, said disputes over decisions in some Olympic events created a note of dissension, but she said disputes in sports are only to be expected. In the case of one of the protests, she is pleased that Canada could share the gold medal with Russia in pairs figure skating. "Not everyone is going to be happy with all the decisions made by the judges," she said. "But with the Canadian and Russian dispute, I think the judges came back and did the right thing by giving the Canadians the gold. And other than that, I think [the judges] are doing a good job."

Utah Governor Mike Leavitt says he is pleased that the games went so well, just six months after the terror attacks in New York and Washington that took the lives of the citizens of some 80 countries. He said the flags of their countries are flying in Salt Lake City. "...They fly together as we collectively defy hatred in the name of peace," he said.

Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani was here for the end of the games, and said after the shock of the terror attacks of September 11, Salt Lake City has helped restore the American spirit. "..You've illustrated to the whole world that people can come to America, that they can be part of it, that we can all work together, that although there is evil and there is hatred and there is danger in the world, there's also a lot more strength in our being unified, and you've proved that in a very, very beautiful way," he said.

If you ask people on the streets of Salt Lake City, they will say the athletes, officials visitors and the Olympics itself deserve a gold medal themselves for the friendliness and spirited competition of the Games.

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