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The 2002 Olympics transformed Salt Lake City and its neighboring venue communities into a stage that welcomed the world. For 17 days, the Games captivated spectators and television viewers as athletes dazzled fans and shed tears of joy. The Games also brought a richness to Utah communities that is very much still alive today.
When now Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who headed the 2002 organizing committee, needed a right hand man, he tabbed his colleague Fraser Bullock for the job. It was a crazy adventure managing thousands of staff, tens of thousands of volunteers and global entourages of teams across more than a dozen sports.
In this episode of Last Chair, we reminisce on 2002 memories and look into the future with Salt Lake City-Utah already America’s Choice.
Before we get into the Olympics, let’s talk skiing.
My favorite sport is being on top of a mountain, looking at the beautiful views and just letting it fly down the slope. Doesn't get any better than that.
What was the key to assembling a strong team to run the 2002 Games?
When I first started, the team was 225 people and there were some really, really capable people that were there already. But we needed to grow to 50,000 at Games time, including volunteers and contractors. One of the things that I have realized during my career, it's all about the team. You have to have incredible capability. You have to have a team orientation of working well together. You have to have unity.
You went on the torch relay not that long after 9-11. What did that mean to you?
I went just a few days before Christmas and I was able to go to Philadelphia, and this was right after 9-11, and Washington, DC and then New York. All very significantly impacted by 911. And we would go down the streets and see thousands of people gathering and cheering us on, and we'd pass by a firefighter station and and and just thank them for their service. But then going to the White House and being there with President Bush. And then up to New York and having the torch run through Manhattan with tens of thousands of people is something I'll never forget.
Many say one of the keys to the success of the 2002 Games was the people of Utah.
Yeah, it really is. Our secret sauce of how our games became seen as so special is because of the people we have here, the welcoming attitude, the friendliness, the hard work. It is a state of volunteerism in helping and we just tapped into that potential and magnified it and showed it to the world.
The legacy of 2002 is still felt today. A full third of Team USA in Beijing makes Utah home!
Its legacy at its best - because the athletes are the heart of the Games. They're the top priority and we kind of live a little bit vicariously through them. But this legacy continues forward because now this next generation that is competing in Beijing. It's so exciting to read about their stories that they're the kid that grew up down the block. That's amazing. But then it also lays the foundation into a potential future Games and can we continue that legacy or even better, expand that legacy?
Where do we stand on a future Games in Utah?
We're in the midst of putting a plan together for a future Games. A lot of it's done. But we are the choice of the USOPC for a future Games. Now we just need the IOC to select us. Ideally, 2030, if we can make all the pieces come together to work for that. But regardless of which year will be pushing hard? Very much this year, and we think the second half of the year will have a lot of interesting activity.
What other international cities are you watching?
I have the philosophy of cheering on any city that's willing to step forward in this important Olympic movement. So when I hear their names, I'm saying, good for you and we wish you the very best. We want the IOC to make the best selection, and we think that we are a marvelous selection.