The last time the US hosted the Winter Olympics was in 2002. Here are nine ways to relive the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
As luck would have it, I was visiting the 2002 Winter Olympic host city of Salt Lake City as the world turned to Pyeongchang, South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to experience the excitement of the last Winter Olympics hosted in the United States.
Here are nine ways to relive the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City:
1 – Cheer on the Utah Grizzlies at Maverik Center
During the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the Maverik Center hosted the ice hockey events. Today Maverik Center is the home of the Utah Grizzlies, a minor league affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks. It’s also home to the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles, an indoor football team. In addition to these sporting events, Maverik Center is a venue for concerts, comedy tours, and other events.
Fun Fact: The Maverik Center hosted more than 30 hockey events during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
2 – Attend an Event at the Vivint Smart Home Arena
During the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the Vivint Smart Home Arena was known as the Salt Lake Ice Center. Here Sarah Hughes earned a gold medal for the US, the only gold medal earned in ice skating for the US during the 2002 Winter Olympics. Today the arena is home to the Utah Jazz basketball team. It’s also a venue for everything from Disney on Ice to rock concerts.
Related Article: Nine Things to do in Salt Lake City
3 – Cool Off in the Olympic Legacy Fountain
Just to the west of the Vivint Smart Home Arena, in a shopping district known as The Gateway, is the Olympic Legacy Fountain. Shaped like a snowflake, the fountain was designed by Mark Fuller, a Utah native who also engineered the fountain at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. The fountain runs year-round, in all temperatures.
Fun Fact: Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for US president in the 2012 election, was the CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.
4 – Tour the Salt Palace
Easily identified by the red bench, “You are Here” marker, and juxtaposed signs, the Salt Palace Convention Center was a non-competitive venue during the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The Salt Palace served as the Main Media Center during the Olympics, housing the International Broadcast Center and Main Press Center.
Fun Fact: As the Main Media Center during the Winter Olympics, the Salt Palace handled more than two million inbound calls a day.
5 – Skate (or Curl) in the Olympic Oval
When it was built specifically for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the Olympic Oval was expected to have the world’s fastest ice. That’s because it’s the world’s highest indoor ice rink at 4,675 feet (1,425 m) above sea level. At higher altitudes, there is less air resistance for the speed skaters and the ice is harder and denser making the overall competition much faster.
Fun Fact: Salt Lake City’s Olympic Oval is 30% higher than the rink in Calgary, the second highest Olympic Oval.
Today you can participate in a public skate session on the same ice where the US earned as many gold medals (and as many total medals) in speed skating as the Netherlands and Germany. You can also learn the fundamentals of curling in a two-hour on-ice class.
6 – View the Olympic Tower Statue in Abravanel Hall
Just to the north of the Salt Palace is Abravanel Hall. Home to the Utah Symphony, Aravanel Hall also hosts the 27-foot-tall Olympic Tower statue. It’s a $900,000, blown glass piece by world-renowned glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly.
Fun Fact: Until Abravanel Hall was constructed in 1979, the Utah Symphony performed at the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Temple Square.
Related Article: 5 Things to Know Before You Attend a Chihuly Exhibit
Although the Olympic Tower is valued at $900,000, artist Dale Chihuly offered to sell the piece for $625,000 provided it wasn’t moved from Abravanel Hall. Chihuly had an additional requirement that the piece remains available to the public at no charge. Therefore, there is no cost to enter the lobby of Abravanel Hall and visit the Olympic Tower statue. You can still see the work of art from outside Abravanel Hall, even if the building is closed.
Pro Tip: Keep an eye out for other public artworks celebrating the 2002 Winter Olympics all around Salt Lake City. There are statues throughout the City Creek Center shopping district and murals along the TRAX light rail route. You might even find a painted bison commemorating the Olympics!
7 – Visit Olympic Cauldron Park at the Rice-Eccles Stadium
In the southwest corner of the Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah, is Olympic Cauldron Park. At the Olympic Cauldron Park, visitors can see the structure that held the Olympic flame during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Once the centerpiece of the Olympics Medals Plaza in the Olympic Square in downtown Salt Lake City, the Hoberman Arch was relocated to Olympic Cauldron Park after the Olympics. Sadly, the Hoberman Arch was removed from Olympic Cauldron Park in August 2014.
Fun Fact: Rice-Eccles Stadium was the site of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
There is no fee to visit the Olympic Cauldron Park. It’s open weekdays from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
8 – Walk through the Museum at Utah Olympic Park
Located near Park City, Utah Olympic Park was built to accommodate the bobsled, skeleton, luge, and ski jumping events at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Today the Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center at the Utah Olympic Park is home to two museums. The Alf Engen Ski Museum and the 2002 Olympic Winter Games Museum are open daily and free to the public.
Fun Fact: The skeleton event returned to the Winter Olympic Games for the first time in 54 years in Salt Lake City. Before the 2002 Winter Olympics, the skeleton competition hadn’t been part of the Winter Olympics since the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
9 – Explore Park City
If your schedule allows, head ten minutes south of Utah Olympic Park to the mountain resort of Park City. Here nearly 100,000 spectators watched the slalom and snowboarding events during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Fun Fact: During the 2002 Winter Olympics, nearly all of the rest of the Park City ski resort was open for operation.
During the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Park City’s historic Main Street was a pedestrian-only area. The Main Street Celebration area was open to the public daily from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm and required no admission fee or venue ticket.
Did you know? Park City is #2 on this list of up and coming US travel destinations.
What about you?
Have you visited any of these 2002 Winter Olympic venues in Salt Lake City? Is there anything you’d add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Please note: Photos not watermarked by me are courtesy of the community of talented photographers over at Pixabay