Hughes: Volunteering in the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics created lifelong memories

Dec 8, 2023, 10:00 AM

salt lake city olympics 2002 medals plaza...

FILE- The Salt Lake City skyline is lit with Olympic banners on building and the medals plaza in the foreground on Jan. 29, 2002. (Deseret News)

(Deseret News)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom. 

SALT LAKE CITY — When the announcement came last week that Utah would be the “preferred host” of the 2034 Games, I’m sure memories from 2002 came flooding back for all who volunteered and felt the Olympic spirit.

That certainly was the case for me and I’ve often said that the opportunities 21 years ago forever changed my career and life. 

My duties happened to be paid positions as the English voice of the Medals Plaza and as a promo and billboard voice talent for NBC Sports. That then took me on a whirlwind trip around the world to the 2004 Games in Athens, the 2006 Games in Torino and the 2008 Games in Beijing.

I certainly was not alone either.

A Facebook friend, Carl Roepke, who served as the Olympic Park announcer in 2002, repeated his performance in the Turin 2006, Vancouver 2010, London 2o12, Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018 Games.

The folks responsible for creating and maintaining “The Fastest Ice on Earth” at the Utah Olympic Oval continued to share their expertise in future Olympics.

The team behind the downtown building-sized mural wraps recreated their art in future years.

These opportunities certainly helped shape and change careers. But for those who volunteered in 2002, it helped change lives and the way we both look and interact with the world.

26,000 volunteers

An estimated 26,000 Utahns volunteered in 2002 for the Winter Games.

That was a number so great and filled with so much spirit that I remember Jacques Rogge, the then president of the International Olympic Committee, saying post-Games that if there was ever a place that could be the permanent home of the Winter Olympics it was Salt Lake.

It’s easy to spot these volunteers even today with their signature blue, green or yellow coats that designated certain responsibilities for those 17 days of competition.

Whether it was simply a friendly face providing valuable knowledge of where, when or how to get somewhere or a bit more involved assignment like my buddy Mike, who helped the doping team shuttle urine samples from venues to testing sites handcuffed to his wrist, all have memories decades later.

Another friend, Chris, worked on the luge and skeleton venue and spent plenty of days during a tough snow year working early hours spray painting dark and dingy snow and ice white to enhance the appeal for the international TV audience.

Try it for yourself

I’m sure most who read this have family, friends or neighbors who have shared their stories, pins or scrapbooks of what the 2002 Olympics meant to them in their lives and last week’s announcement means that an entirely new generation of Utahns will get their chance.

I know a decade seems like a long time from now but it will be here before you know it.

So for those who have ever said “I wish I had participated” or “If it ever happens again,” chart your Olympic course today.

I promise this two-week experience of sharing and interacting with the rest of the world will provide a lifetime of stories and memories for you and your families.

Tim Hughes is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and the host of KSL Outdoors on KSL NewsRadio. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram. 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Salt Lake City

A multi-vehicle collision involving three cars on northbound I-15 at 10600 S has caused delays afte...

Derrick Jones

I-15 collisions affecting weekend traffic

A multi-vehicle collision involving three cars on northbound I-15 at 10600 S has caused delays after a truck pulling a trailer rolled over, blocking three lanes.

6 days ago

A man looks for a break in traffic as he crosses 300 West at a busy pedestrian area between Walmart...

Kennedy Camarena

Three pedestrian involved car accidents have SLCPD reminding the public about road safety

After three car accidents occurred within the same week, all with injury to pedestrians, SLCPD is reminding road users about road safety.

6 days ago

SWAT officers with the Salt Lake City Police Department stand in a driveway after they and patrol o...

Kennedy Camarena

Suspect arrested by SLCPD and SWAT after threatening medical workers with a gun

Salt Lake City Police Department and their SWAT team were able to safely arrest a man who threatened Gold Cross employees with a gun.

6 days ago

a rending of what a MLB baseball stadium in salt lake would look like...

Adam Small

Utah House committee advances bill aimed to help bring MLB stadium to Salt Lake

Utah residents are excited, and concerned, about the advancement of a bill meant to get a Major League Baseball stadium to Salt Lake City.

7 days ago

Shane Romano and Sami Sowers take a rest in the shade at Sunnyside Park in Salt Lake City, Tuesday,...

Mark Jackson

SLC Council considering proposal to lease section of neighborhood park to University of Utah

SLC Council is considering a proposal to lease a little over an acre of Sunnyside Park to the University of Utah for a new baseball stadium.

9 days ago

crime Ballpark...

Curt Gresseth

Cop talks knocking down violent crime in Ballpark Neighborhood

Violent crime in the Ballpark Neighborhood of Salt Lake City is down. A deputy chief details how the SLCPD achieved the results.

9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Hughes: Volunteering in the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics created lifelong memories