Whether it was exchanging pins with a Japanese camera crew, working out with Ukrainians and Poles at the Field House, or waving at Italian ice dancers outside of the Olympic Village, one of the benefits of the U’s participation in the 2002 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games was the interaction with international visitors. Nowhere was that more apparent than at the Alumni House, which was transformed during the month of February into the German House.

The transformation was obvious to anyone who passed by the housethat month The large “Deutsches Haus” banners, globed lighting, red
carpeting (okay, plastic turf), scaffolding, and long trailers out front indicated the presence of the German Sports Marketing Group. But within the front doors, the group, who used the house as their headquarters for administrative work, receptions, media briefings, and athlete contact, made even more extensive alterations.

Two architects directed the assembly of a temporary television studio behind the Alumni House, along with three office units, one of which was used by a sports psychologist. A hardwood floor was temporarily installed on the house’s dining room floor, and three meals, including a buffet dinner, were served daily by a catering staff and two chefs. One alumni reception room became a press conference room and a business lounge, while the other reception room became an athletes’ lounge. Flags, flowers, neon lights, and six big-screen televisions added to the festive feel, as did the presence of an especially large trailer out front—for beer storage.

“They’ve told me this is the best facility they’ve had,” says John Fackler, director of business relations for the Alumni Association. The German hosts and hostesses put it to good use, holding receptions for the German ambassador to the United States, the bishop of Salt Lake City’s Catholic diocese, George Niederauer, and the mayors of Frankfurt and Dusseldorf, among others. In addition, German athletes who won medals—and there were many, Germany being first in the medal count—came to the house for press conferences and late-night celebrations. German athletes, opera stars, and officials mingled with representatives of other countries’ delegations, invited guests, and, occasionally, the Alumni Association staff.

The staff continued working through the Games in the one administrative section of the house. “Since the main purpose of the house was to give German athletes a place they could relax undisturbed, we tried to stay out of their way,” says Debbie Tucker, manager of the Alumni House. Tucker arranged custodial, parking, and security needs for the Germans, and connected them with dry cleaners, dentists, and doctors, as well. “They were very interested in the U,” says Tucker, noting that a few who attended a Runnin’ Utes game were especially taken with Swoop.

In March, the Alumni House welcomed the Canadian Paralympic team, which used a much smaller portion of the house during the Paralympic Games. Still, the chance to meet and mingle with other countries—and the rental fees—were worth any extra effort, according to the Alumni Association staff. As Fackler notes, “It was a blast.”

by Matt Canham, Editor in Chief, The Daily Utah Chronicle

Few Olympic jobs were as interesting as mine. I was paid to bug theathletes, to ask them who they are and what makes them unique. Then I turned around and told 2,499 of their friends.

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee contracted with the University of Utah to produce a village newspaper. The U then handed the Postscripts to the 2002 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games assignment to me and my staff at The Daily Utah Chronicle. We produced the Olympic Record seven days a week for the athletes staying in the Olympic and Paralympic Villages.

While I wasn’t excited about handing over the editorial freedom I normally enjoy with The Chronicle, I needed the money and I thought it would be neat to meet some of the athletes.

In the end, the experience far surpassed my limited expectations.

Walking into the village was walking into an alternate universe. All of the people wore their nationality in big bright letters on their jackets and shirts. Pins replaced money. Buildings replaced countries. And the political tensions that exist between many nations disappeared under an enormous amount of mutual respect and sportsmanship.

All of this took me off guard. As a naive Utah native, I had no idea what to expect wandering the grounds of the Olympic Village. What I found were some incredibly interesting people. The most exciting part of my job was meeting these superhuman athletes on a human level. I loved seeing the reunion of two luge athletes, one from India, the other from South Korea, who became friends at the Nagano Games. They lost track of each other, and four years later met up while waiting for a welcoming ceremony to begin.

Philip Boit, a cross-country skier, represented Kenya as the country’s only Winter Olympian. He was competing in his second Games. His wife had their third child while he trained in Finland just weeks before his competition. They named the little girl Olympia after the Salt Lake Games.

Natalia Ponomareva from Uzbekistan broke her foot in an accident three weeks before the Games began. When her doctor told her she shouldn’t skate for at least six to eight weeks, she responded, “How about two days?” She competed in the pairs figure skating competition despite the pain.

Few people around the world had the opportunity to hear these stories because they came from the low-profile athletes—those who compete for the love of the sport, those who embody the true Olympic spirit.

With the politics and scandals that surrounded the organization of the Winter Olympics, it is easy to see the Games as a corporate monster. In fact, I felt a little jaded before the Games, but after being able to meet the competitors and to see the experience from their respective vantage points, I have a renewed interest in the Olympic Movement. I also have a new-found sense of pride about the University of Utah’s involvement, as well as my own, in the Salt Lake Games.

by Christopher Nelson, Health Sciences Center

While they didn’t win any medals or set a world record, the dream team of the University of Utah’s medical community left its mark on the 2002 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

For 50 days, more than 200 of the top faculty and staff from the University’s Health Sciences Center operated and staffed the 24-hour-a-day Polyclinic inside the Olympic and Paralympic Villages. In the end, more than 2,000 athletes, coaches, officials, and other international visitors received care for everything from bruises and sprains to respiratory infections and even a heart attack. The most popular services, as expected, were dentistry and eye care.

“Looking back, I can’t believe how naive we were to think we could pull this off,” says Mark R. Elstad, Polyclinic medical director and associate professor of internal medicine. “It turns out ignorance was on our side. The clinic was a massive, exhausting effort. Our planning paid off, though—things couldn’t have gone better.” Elstad and his staff received rave reviews for their performance. Most notably, members of the International Olympic Committee’s Medical Commission called the Salt Lake Polyclinic the best ever, specifically complimenting the friendly, accommodating staff. The clinic also came in under its predicted $2.2 million budget, according to William Holt BS’88 MPA’93, a University Hospital administrator who served as Polyclinic director.

The biggest pre-Games concern—fear of a potential influenza outbreak in the village—didn’t develop, in part because of improved screening methods. For the first time in Olympic history, Polyclinic visitors who complained of flu-like symptoms were tested for the virus, as part of a study done in collaboration with Merle A. Sande, professor of internal medicine at the U. “One of the most important successes of the Games from a medical perspective was being able to say definitively hat there was no influenza outbreak,” says Elstad. “In Nagano, people had runny noses, headaches, and respiratory symptoms. No one did any diagnostic testing to know who had the flu and who didn’t. The media picked up on the story and a flu outbreak is now part of Nagano’s legacy.”

The Salt Lake Polyclinic did receive its share of media coverage. The Washington Post and The Denver Post both ran positive, in-depth stories about the clinic, and the European Broadcaster’s Union aired a story about the clinic to 65 European TV stations.

Both Elstad and Holt have mixed emotions about the closing of the Polyclinic. The two have been involved in Olympic-related planning for the University and Polyclinic since 1997. Stuart E. Willick, an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, was
also heavily involved in planning for the Paralympic Polyclinic.

“There was such a good energy surrounding these Games,” says Holt. “The University staff and community volunteers who worked at the Polyclinic really fed off the international spirit in the village. There were so many Olympic moments we all experienced. I don’t think any of us will ever be the same.”

“It was a tremendous experience, but I’m exhausted,” admits Elstad. He expects to be asked to make a number of Olympic-related presentations to various medical groups over the next year. He also predicts a number of papers will be published based on data collected during both games.

If asked to do it again, Holt says the only thing he’d do differently is order more food for the Polyclinic break room. “The meals SLOC provided for the volunteers were terrible,” he says. “Needless to say, the break room’s food supply was raided very early on in the Games.”

—Photos by Peter Gross


Alfred C. Emery, 83, BS’40 JD’47, president emeritus of the University and distinguished professor emeritus of law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law. Emery, the first alumnus to serve as president (1971-73), was a faculty member for 40 years, acting dean of the law school (1961-62), and vice president for academic affairs (1965-67) before becoming president. He is remembered as a committed professor, defender of academic integrity, and an administrator who helped build the modern campus. The 1901 classroom building southwest of the Park Building on Presidents Circle was named for Emery in 1980.

Lionel H. Frankel, 70, professor emeritus of law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law. Frankel, who joined the U faculty in 1966, founded the Innocence Project, a program dedicated to helping death row inmates who could be proven innocent.

Frank Sanguinetti, 84, director of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts for 35 years. Sanguinetti transformed a small collection of art in the Park Building into a 74,000-square-foot museum with a collection valued at $24 million (see Continuum, Fall 2001).