Ten years ago, the greatest winter-sport athletes from around the world converged on Utah for the 2002 Winter Olympics, and 10 years ago, thousands of volunteers from Utah worked to provide a stellar experience for the athletes and their coaches and families, as well as dignitaries and fans from around the world.
The memories the volunteers made working to make the games succeed -- and most of all, from welcoming and meeting people from around the world -- still flicker and warm them, especially as the 10-year anniversary approaches.
Vicki Young, a now-retired junior high schoolteacher, participated in the Olympics from beginning to end, volunteering, spectating and bringing her love of the games to her geography students at Central Davis Junior High in Layton.
She was chosen to chaperone a group of ninth-grade delegates to Budapest, Hungary, in 1995 for the official International Olympic Committee announcement that Salt Lake City had won the Olympics.
"The Salt Lake committee asked the three to four hundred Utahns that had gone over for all the events to line the bridge where IOC members would be crossing to where they were going to be listening to the bids. We dressed in Western wear, had flags and signs, and for a couple of hours that morning, we just spanned that bridge and waved at everybody," she said. "They were honking and waving and wishing us luck. It was just such a proud moment for Salt Lake City and the state of Utah."
After that experience, Young continued to teach her Olympic bid-process unit to students, and when the Olympics arrived, she took two weeks off from teaching to volunteer at the information tent at Snowbasin and also worked at the opening and closing ceremonies.
Besides that, because of her longtime involvement with the Olympics, she received a Coca-Cola teacher award, which gave her two tickets to four Olympic events and a stay at the Coca-Cola headquarters hotel in Salt Lake City.
Young said the whole experience was amazing, being able to show off Utah and help others with information and the lost and found, but her highlight was working the opening ceremonies. There, she was able to watch athletes from countries around the world walk into Rice-Eccles Stadium and talk to them.
"We got to be within a matter of foot or two from all those hundreds of athletes as they were going down into the stadium," Young said.
"Sometimes they got held up and we actually got to talk to them and got a few pins given to us. It was so neat to have them come down with placards of where they were from, and I knew where all the countries were. To see them come down and be able to talk with them and share the enthusiasm they had was, for me, the highlight."
In an email response to a Standard-Examiner request for Olympic volunteer memories, other volunteers expressed the same sentiments -- that the athletic competitions were awesome, but the people they met were even better:
Sharon Kerkman volunteered as security for the Olympic Hotel, Little America, in Salt Lake City. She checked credentials and made sure only those with the proper authority were allowed into the hotel.
She recalled former President George W. Bush meeting with the volunteers and Mitt Romney keeping everyone in line. But her fondest memory was chatting with an IOC country head from one of the small African countries, who she wrote, "took a shining to me."
"We talked often when he would be either stepping out or back inside after having a cigarette (he was a chain smoker). This gentleman would give me a different pin of his country each day that I saw him. He also arranged for my young Australian friend, who was staying with my family, and I to attend the ladies figure skating finals, where Sarah Hughes won for the USA gold, and the final men's hockey, where the USA lost to Canada, where we received the silver medal," she wrote.
"We had IOC location seats, which were wonderful. When we saw Sarah Hughes win, all of her family was in the surrounding seats at the Delta Center near us. It had not been expected, so they were truly surprised."
Others remember helping people with various tasks, including helping a Secret Service agent who had dropped her phone in the toilet and helping a Norwegian coach obtain training videos.
"Whenever someone from one channel needed to talk to another, they would call us and we would find an empty channel on which to communicate," wrote Naomi Anson, who volunteered with her husband, Carey, at the Olympic Oval. "It was a unique experience to be able to listen to everything behind the scenes."
She recalled connecting a female Secret Service agent with maintenance after the woman dropped her cellphone in the toilet.
"All of us in communications could not stop laughing, and her fellow agents did not stop teasing her every time she came back to the building."
Dave Weaver volunteered at Snowbasin as the venue accreditation office manager, issuing area access badges. His most memorable experience was helping a coach from the Norwegian men's downhill team and the conversations he had with him.
"While I was issuing his area badge and credentials, we had an interesting conversation about the venue, the local culture, the hotel he and his racers were staying at, and his English-language skills. He thanked me and was on his way.
"A couple of days later, he came back into our office/trailer with a complaint. He was having a very difficult time obtaining his racer's training videos and was fearful his country would not be successful in competition without them," wrote Weaver.
Weaver was able to joke around with him about how the American racers were going to win anyway, and then aided him in obtaining the videos.
"The day after the downhill competition was complete, the coach came back to our trailer and gave me a Norwegian downhill Olympic pin and thanked me for my help and support.
"The other day, I pulled out my Olympic souvenir wristwatch along with my pins, clothing, photos, books and other items, and I was flooded with very fond memories. What a great experience."
Michael Dellos, a volunteer at the curling venue (The Ice Sheet), remembers meeting a man from Canada who had flown in to watch curling. Dellos had to tell him that the event was sold out.
"He could not believe that curling would be sold out in the U.S. He did not think it was that popular," said Dellos. "I explained to him that it is a Saturday night in Ogden, Utah, and what else is there do to except go to a curling match? He thought that was okay. I told him where he could go to watch it live on TV."
Others remember meeting and seeing athletes and people who weren't famous yet, but have since gone on to become the best at what they do.
Stu Boyd provided sound support for the practices at the figure skating competition held at the EnergySolutions Arena (then known as the Delta Center).
"One morning at the Delta Center, we were preparing the CDs to be used later in the day by the competitors during practice. This very young lady walked into our technical room and asked if we could play her CD. It was Sasha Cohen and her coach. She danced her way through the program on the rug in the middle of the room, complete with jumps (just one turn) and the rest of her moves. We later saw the same program on the ice."
Cohen was fourth at the 2002 Olympics and went on to take silver at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.
Tim and Virginia Baker volunteered in the wardrobe venue for the Olympics and were star-struck when they met singer Charlotte Church and got her autograph.
"We also met her co-star, Josh Groban, who at the time was a virtual unknown," they wrote in their email. "How wonderful to see that young man go on to become such an amazing star. What a thrill it was to meet some of the stars, the athletes, both professional and amateur, and just enjoy the whole experience."
Alexandra Hyer, who was in the fourth grade in 2002, skated as one of the Children of Light in the ceremonies.
She remembers that ceremony choreographer Kenny Ortega had a spunky personality and that there were plenty of volunteers making sure the children were safe.
"The attitude everyone had was amazing!" Hyer wrote. "Everyone was so nice everywhere you went, and even though I was young, I still remember that."
Megan Yarrington also skated in the opening ceremonies, as a snowflake and then with Kristi Yamaguchi.
"I was one of only two Caucasian girls to skate amongst four other Asian girls that showed the age progression of a small Asian girl gradually growing up to (be) Kristi Yamaguchi and living the 'Olympic Dream,' " Yarrington wrote.
"This segment was very special to me, and my fondest memory was, after we finished the number, the torch was lit right above where we were standing. After months of working toward that day, it was a glorious feeling to watch that torch be lit and know that I had been a part of something huge -- something I'd never forget for the rest of my life."