Pin trading reaches fever pitch; Collectors lured by mementos reflecting Olympics, green Jell-O

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 14B

SALT LAKE CITY – “You’re an artist, aren’t you? I can tell you’re an artist. That’s the kind of pin an artist, a sophisticated collector would want.”

Marlee Baker, one of the many people hawking Olympic pins on the streets of Salt Lake City, is doing a marvelous job. She’s got Pamela Thomas hooked on a small black pin from the 1992 Barcelona Games.

“Collecting pins is like an art form,” Baker tells her, standing behind a pin featuring the head of Fred Flintstone. “You have to appreciate art to get into it.”

Baker, a former massage therapist who lives in Branson, Mo., is a key cog in the enormous Olympics pin-trading machinery. Every day, from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m., she and a few of her colleagues have 10,000 pins for sale. And she does a brisk business.

“It starts out as an impulse buy for people,” she said. “Then they get the fever and they keep buying more.”

When she discusses pin trading, the most common word out of Baker’s mouth is fever. As in: “I sell a lot of pins for just $1 or $2, so people can buy them up and start to get the fever.” Or: “In Sydney, people just didn’t have the fever. It was sad, because pin trading is an Olympic event as much as anything else.”

Thomas, the woman Baker sold on pin trading as art form, is the latest victim of the fever. She bought the Barcelona pin for $5, adding it to the 20 others in her pocket.

“They’re just really cool! It’s addictive,” she said before warning her mother: “Don’t let me go near another pin stand.”

Pins are everywhere at these Games, setting off metal detectors and launching appreciative oohs and aahs. It’s not unusual to see people walking around town with a hundred or more pins attached to a vest or jacket. They feature everything from television networks to Olympic events to nearby burger joints.

Marguerite Harrington, a former Houstonian now living in Salt Lake City, asked Baker if she had any Texas-themed pins. “I didn’t get the fever until a couple of weeks ago,” she said, unprompted. “Now I’ve got about 50 pins.” She lowers her voice and leans in:

“I’ve got the green Jell-O pin.”

As soon as you hear someone mention pins in Salt Lake City, start silently counting to yourself. By the time you reach 20, chances are someone will have mentioned the green Jell-O pin, which achieved legendary status within days of the Games’ opening.

The pin – which portrays a simple bowl of lime gelatin, Utah’s official state snack food – might be worth 20 or 30 cents in raw materials. But in the artificial tulip-bulb economy of the Olympics, it might as well be solid gold.

“There’s a lady down the street who sold a Jell-O pin for $200,” Baker confides, although she notes that is “unconfirmed.” A typical street quote for a green Jell-O range is about $150. They originally sold for $7.50.

Of course, the market for Olympic pins is always artificially inflated during the Games. Once it is only the hard-core collectors still interested in trading, prices drop. In 1996, a particular onion-ring pin was going for $1,500 in Atlanta. “Now people who have them ask, ‘How much can I get for it?’ ” Baker said. “Good

As in real estate, the three most important factors in successful pin trading are location, location, location, and Baker snagged a terrific spot on a busy street downtown. She and her trading colleagues have taken over a portion of a parking lot – which, considering the value of a good parking spot around here, shows the
economic might of pin trading.

Despite all the time she spends around pins, she maintains the distance required of someone in the business. “I’ve learned I can’t get attached. You might have to trade it away.” Between puffs on her cigarette, she does speak longingly of a silver-and-gold snowflake pin she swapped a few days ago: “I traded it and it broke my heart. But that’s what you do.”

She’s been trading since the Los Angeles Games in 1984, which she considers the fever’s “absolute peak.” The Nagano Games in 1998 were also a strong year: “A pin is a small piece of art, which meant they could fit into their tiny Japanese houses,” Baker said.

Home cooking, with dash of Salt; Volume doesn’t keep eateries from satisfying world’s taste buds

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 14B

SALT LAKE CITY – Siegfried Meyer knows bratwurst. He just didn’t expect to have to know this much.

“I’m going through 1,000 pounds of bratwurst a day,” said Meyer, who runs Siegfried’s Delicatessen in downtown Salt Lake City. “The Germans want to eat German food.”

Siegfried’s, which normally makes 70 varieties of sausage and has brought in more for the Games, is one of the many local eateries that have been tapped to serve the Olympics’ international crowd.

Together, they’re proof that no matter how deeply Olympic sponsor McDonald’s penetrates foreign cultures, there’s always a taste for home cooking.

“There are plenty of people looking for something other than hamburgers,” Meyer said.

Absolute, the city’s only Scandinavian restaurant, rented itself out to the Austrian Olympic committee for the Games. With the high concentration of Swedes, Norwegians and Finns in the Winter Olympics, Absolute probably stood to make quite a profit if it simply stayed open for regular business.

“But it’s a guarantee if we rent it out,” said Kimi Eklund, the restaurant’s owner. “And it’s a way to be a part of the Olympics, instead of just doing the same things we do every day. Instead, we get to meet the medalists, meet royalty, meet the prime minister. We’re a part of it.”

And since the Austrians have been faring well on the medal stand – with 13 medals won as of Sunday – the atmosphere has been celebratory, she said, which makes the schnitzel, goulash and strudel go down well.

The city’s top-rated French restaurant, Au Bon Appetit, has been taken over by the Swiss Olympic committee. But unlike Absolute and other Olympic-affiliated restaurants, Au Bon Appetit, renamed the House of Switzerland, has remained open to the public all along.

“The fondue is as good as in Switzerland,” said Swiss alpine skier Oliver Koch.

Owner Christian Peyrin echoed a complaint of many downtown business people: while the influx of Olympians has helped their bottom lines, their regular customers have been scared away.

“The people here are not used to traffic,” he said. “It’s been very, very smooth. But in Salt Lake, whenever they see three cars, they call it a traffic jam.”

Still, business has been strong. A normal Friday or Saturday might bring 200 customers to Au Bon Appetit, Peyrin said. During the Games, an average day might bring 450 or 500.

“We are super-swamped,” he said. “I’ve worked in cities like New York, Paris, Chicago, and this week, Salt Lake feels like a city for the first time.”

To help run the show, Swiss officials brought in 22 volunteers from the mother country, including three chefs. That’s necessary when feeding a Swiss clientele, since Switzerland has no fewer than four official languages.

Meyer’s deli is supplying all the food for the Thueringen House, which is watching after Germany’s Olympians from Thueringen state, once the breadbasket of the East German athletics program.

“I’ve had just about every German newspaper, TV station and magazine in here,” said Meyer, who’s run the deli for 32 years.

The Germans have surprised Meyer with the amount of food and drink (“They’re big on beer”) they’ve consumed. What he expected would be enough bratwurst for two days barely survived one, which is why he was at the deli Sunday, normally his day off, making sausage.

“I get Germans and Austrians and Scandinavians and everybody in here,” he said. “They come and go all day long. Two people leave, and two more people come in. We’ve been packed over capacity.”

Area Catholics serve in Utah; Coppell group helping parish cope with flood of Olympic visitors

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

PARK CITY, Utah – If an Italian Olympic skier wanted to observe Ash Wednesday this week, chances are he did it with a little help from some folks from the Dallas area.

Eighteen North Texas Catholics have traveled to Park City to help the town’s one small parish deal with the onslaught of Catholic visitors.

“We knew they’d need some help and wanted to do what we could,” said Paul LeBon of Highland Village, one of the group’s leaders.

Utah, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long been dominant, is home to only 100,000 Catholics. But many of the countries that sent athletes to the Park City Olympic skiing venues, such as France and Italy, are heavily Catholic.

“We want to let people know that we’re available if they need us,” said Father Rick Sherman, associate pastor at St. Mary of the Assumption in Park City. “We’re a very visible church on a main road, so we have people just wandering in, too.”

In anticipation of added demand, the parish altered its usual Ash Wednesday schedule to allow for services every half-hour through much of the day.

The North Texans, all members of St. Ann Catholic Parish in Coppell, helped with the distribution. They also have publicized the church’s existence among visitors by wearing vests advertising it in highly populated areas. “We’re not proselytizing; we just want people to know it’s available for them,” Mr. LeBon said.

He thought of the idea last summer while visiting Park City on vacation.

“I realized they’d need some volunteers to help out, and I thought we could do it,” he said Wednesday. “There’s been a steady stream of people coming in.”

About half the volunteers are teenagers. Father Sherman said he hopes the Coppell teens can meet with Park City teens to discuss St. Ann’s mission work in Mexico.

“The Dallas kids have been a really significant presence here,” Father Sherman said.

He estimated that a third of the people they served on Ash Wednesday were Olympic-related visitors.

St. Mary’s is a small but growing parish with about 1,000 families. St. Ann in Coppell, in contrast, has about 6,000 families.

When they’re not helping out, the Coppell volunteers have been the beneficiaries of a few people looking to get rid of event tickets.

“We’re wearing T-shirts with our home church’s name on it, and people have been surprised to see us,” Mr. LeBon said. “People ask, ‘You came here for the Olympics?’ We say, ‘No, we came here to serve this church.’ “

School embraces difficult task; Program links Salt Lake-area middle school to Iran

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 16B

WEST JORDAN, Utah – They may be part of the axis of evil, but at Jensen Middle School, Iran is still a welcome member of the family of nations.

Jensen was stuck with one of the most difficult assignments in the One School, One Country program, which links area schools to the countries sending athletes to the Olympics.

“I didn’t even think Iran had a Winter Olympics team,” said Jana Crist, the school’s assistant principal. “There wasn’t a lot of excitement when we were assigned Iran.”

Three years ago, area school leaders drew names from a basket to see who they’d be linked to. Then they’d integrate information about their country into their curriculum up through the Games.

Some, like France and Canada, were easy. Others, like Belarus and Azerbaijan, took more background research. And still others, like Jensen’s Iran, were politically sensitive. President Bush, after all, did name the country as one of a tripartite “axis of evil” in his State of the Union address.

“I was watching him give that address, and I just thought, ‘Oh. OK. That’s our country,'” Crist said.

Jensen focused on Iranian culture and music in its studies, she said. “We’ve stayed away from the politics,” she said. “It’s really a good way to get children beyond the idea that the Olympics are just about rooting for the U.S.A. and that’s it.”

The school-country pairing program was first launched for the Nagano Games in 1998, at the initiative of Nagano’s mayor. More than 800 Utah schools have gone to a variety of lengths to learn about foreign cultures; some have even visited with their Olympians, such as Emerson Elementary in Salt Lake City, which sent students to a Monaco bobsled team practice.

Bonneville Elementary in Salt Lake City was one of 14 Utah schools that picked China, whose relations with the United States have sometimes been rocky in recent years.

“This has been an opportunity to get past politics,” said Craig Ruesch, Bonneville’s principal. “The children are learning about the wider world.”

On Friday, Bonneville’s students hosted a Chinese athletic delegation, including Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, the bronze medalists in the controversial pairs figure skating competition.

“We’ve learned how to eat with chopsticks, write a few Chinese characters, practice Tai Chi movements, and even speak a few words of Chinese,” Ruesch told the visitors before a school assembly, shortly before being given two stuffed pandas as a symbol of U.S.-China cooperation.

“This is like a bridge between our two countries,” said Zhao, through a translator. “I hope some of them can come to Beijing in 2008, and we will return their hospitality.”

“The more you understand about other people, the more you can connect to them,” said Utah First Lady Jacalyn Leavitt. The Leavitts’ son Westin is a sixth grader at Bonneville. “It’s when you start putting up barriers that the problems start.”

Madisyn Taylor and Miles Bennett, both fifth graders, said they’ve learned a lot about China in the last three years. “They’ve got a billion people,” said Miles. “They’ve got a bunch of cities, and they’re nice people,” said Madisyn.

Leaving the school assembly, one girl was overheard telling her father: “I shook three of their hands. I’m never washing my hands again.”

Crist, the assistant principal at Jensen, is trying to arrange a similar trip of Iranian athletes to her school. (Iran sent two to the Games, alpine skier Bagher Kalhor and cross-county skier Seyed Mostafa Mirhashemi.) At first, she didn’t think it would be possible; she’d been led to believe that Iran had withdrawn from the Games after Sept. 11. When she watched the opening ceremonies on TV last week, she was surprised.

“There they were, marching into the stadium,” she said.

Mormons help Hindus build; Hare Krishna temple in rural Utah a labor of love, mutual respect

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 16B

SPANISH FORK, Utah – For television viewers around the world, there’s no sight more associated with Utah than the spires of the Salt Lake Temple, spiritual headquarters of the Mormon faith.

But an hour south, atop a hill and down a country road, sits an altogether different temple. The onion domes, the epic murals and the marble Hindu deities make this Hare Krishna temple look like it belongs in Calcutta, not rural Utah.

The connection between the two isn’t just geographic. Mormons helped build the Hare Krishna temple, too.

“If you’re fortunate enough to associate with saintly people, no matter their religion, you’re enriched by that,” said Caru Das, the Hare Krishna temple’s leader. “The Mormons have just been wonderful people to get to know.”

Hundreds of Mormons have spent thousands of volunteer hours helping build the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, and a foundation associated with the church helped fund it. It’s a perhaps unexpected interfaith effort, but one that leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fits perfectly with their philosophy.

“We have for a long time tried to be on good terms with all the churches where our people are located,” said H. David Burton, the faith’s presiding bishop. “We like to outreach to our colleagues. We rather pride ourselves in it.”

The Spanish Fork Hare Krishna community started in 1982, when Caru Das, then a leader in a Los Angeles temple, raised funds to buy a small AM radio station here. The station soon began broadcasting Krishna philosophy to the surrounding area, which is almost completely Mormon.

At first, much of the community wasn’t sure what to make of their new neighbors.

“When we first bought the station, I went to the city manager of Spanish Fork to tell him we didn’t have any intention of rocking the boat,” Das said. “We’re not going to be going to the supermarket in our robes and shaved heads and try to convert people. We’re gonna wear jeans like everyone else. He just sat there: ‘Hmm. Hmm. Hmm.’ He was very noncommittal.”

But over time, the locals got used to hearing the broadcasts. Das and his wife, Vaibhavi Devi, opened a llama farm that became a popular attraction for school groups. They started holding festivals that would draw thousands from the area, the vast majority of them Mormon. “After six or seven years of not even getting a speeding ticket, the reservations were gradually put aside,” Das said. “We’re pretty much integral to the community now.”

For years, Das and Devi had dreamed of building a major temple. In the mid 1990s, they started raising funds for one, which they imagined would cost up to $1 million to build: 17 ornamented domes, black teakwood doors and marble floors.

When Stanley Green, president of the local LDS stake, first heard about the Hare Krishnas’ need for funds, he went for a visit. “I found them to be wonderful people who, in their wildest dreams, could never afford to build what they wanted to,” he said. “Their congregation was just too small.” There are only about 2,000 Hindus in Utah.

Dr. Green’s successful visit was a major factor in the church’s philanthropic foundation giving $25,000 to the temple project in 1999.

In many ways, Mormons and Hare Krishnas make a good match. Both faiths proscribe drugs, alcohol, gambling, promiscuity, caffeine, tea and cigarettes. “We’re pretty white bread in our own way,” Das said. “They don’t have any moral quibbles with us.” (They do disagree on vegetarianism, although Das points to some writings of LDS founder Joseph Smith that limit meat consumption.)

But beyond the financial contribution, the church rallied its members to volunteer to help build the Hare Krishna temple. Hundreds showed up on weekend after weekend, waterproofing decks, scraping paint, cutting down thistles in the amphitheater.

“We just asked what we could do,” said Eric Weight, a Mormon who works in construction. “I’d actually never met them before I went down there. You find out they’re not that much different than we are. They’re children of the Heavenly Father, too.”

“They probably gave us 3,000 hours of volunteer time,” Das said. “In monetary terms, that’s enormous, and of course there were benefits far beyond money.”

Barriers of suspicion, already weakened by the two decades Hare Krishnas had been in Spanish Fork, came tumbling down. Neither side has shown most interest in converting the other, although both have reputations for aggressive proselytizing. About half of the attendants at most Hare Krishna services are curious Mormons, Das said. A number of Mormons even adopted some of the temple llamas, Dr. Green said.

“We’ve learned from them, and I hope they’ve learned from us,” he said.

Visitors root around for roots; Family History Library a gold mine for genealogy buffs

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 16B

SALT LAKE CITY – Prince Albert probably knows all he needs to about his royal lineage.

But the rest of the Monaco bobsled team decided to ask the Mormons for help finding their roots.

Thanks to an unusual religious belief, the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints is the world’s biggest and best resource for people researching their genealogy. And many of those in town for the Olympics are sneaking into the church’s Family History Library here between events.

“I’ve heard a lot about this place, and I want to see what they have about my family,” said Greet den Hertog, whose niece Andrea Nuyt is competing in speedskating for the Netherlands. “I want to see my roots.”

In the last few days, the library has seen several visits from athletes, including most (but not all) of the Monaco team, and many more from coaches and spectators.

“We’ve seen figure skaters, we’ve seen IOC officials – we’ve seen everybody,” said Larry Piatt, the library’s deputy director.

The Family History Library is the largest collection of genealogy records in the world. It has more than 2.2 million rolls of microfilm. Its records include the names of more than 2 billion dead people – equal to the populations of North America, South America, Africa, Australia, Russia and Germany combined.

For Mormons, genealogy isn’t just a hobby – it’s a tool of their faith. Mormons believe that they can retroactively baptize their non-Mormon ancestors and thus give them a chance at eternal salvation. Church founder Joseph Smith said researching genealogy was a spiritual obligation of all the faith’s members.

The practice has been controversial in the past, such as last year when researchers for the Simon Wiesenthal Center objected that many Holocaust victims and prominent Jews – Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud among them – had been baptized by proxy. So have Napoleon, Hitler and Ben Franklin. Church members believe that those baptized after death have the ability to accept or reject the baptism.

But many of the Olympic visitors are more interested in their own genealogical research than post-mortem baptism.

“My family tree is very difficult to track,” said Fernando Scrimini, a 26-year-old Argentinian of mixed Italian/Spanish heritage. He’s in Salt Lake City as a spectator, and he’s also in training with hopes of qualifying for the 2006 Games in slalom. “Everyone here is so nice. I found all these relatives in France I
never knew about.”

The 2006 Games will be held in Turin, Italy, and Scrimini hopes to track down some of his Italian relatives before then.

“My kids have done some research into the family tree, but they wanted to see what they could find here,” said Ron Deatrick of Ottawa, Ohio, who came to the Olympics with his family.

“We follow our family history very closely in my country, and I want to compare what they have here to what we have at home,” said Mi-Hyun Kang, a South Korean working at the Games.

“Ten days ago, we were having very little international traffic,” Piatt said. “Now it’s a lot heavier, and it’s still building.”

Piatt said that, despite the increased traffic from international and out-of-state visitors, the number of visitors is down from normal. The reason: “regulars” who normally come every day are frightened away by the traffic and parking problems around the library’s downtown location.

But he expects that, as the Games move on and more events conclude, the number of Olympics-related visitors will increase. “For a lot of the athletes, I imagine they’ve got their minds on something else at the moment,” he said.

Texas governor visits Olympics

Page 17B

There may not be many Texans competing at the Winter Olympics, but the state was well represented at a U.S. Olympic Committee reception Tuesday night.

Gov. Rick Perry flew into town to attend the reception at the University of Utah. Members of the Houston 2012 Foundation also were there to promote the city’s candidacy to be the American choice to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Houston was named one of four finalists for the American nomination in October, joining San Francisco, New York and Washington. Four other cities – Dallas, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and Tampa – were eliminated.

The USOC will make its selection in November. The International Olympic Committee will make its final choice in 2005.

Joshua Benton

Grooming isn’t just for dogs; Workers have turned in some Olympic-caliber snow plowing at Games

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 16B

PARK CITY, Utah – Anyone hoping to make a pilgrimage to the halfpipe where three American men swept the medals Monday will be sorely disappointed.

Within a few hours of Ross Powers’ gold-medal run, the cheers and ska-punk were replaced with the sounds of churning engines and crashing snow.

“It’s all got to come down,” said Kevin Klepser, 39, the Alaskan commercial fisherman/Utahn snow expert whose job was to tear down the halfpipe. “It’ll look like it was never here.”

The 17-foot-tall halfpipe at Park City Mountain Resort was located right on the spot that will be the finish line for the snowboard parallel giant slalom, which starts Thursday, and the alpine giant slalom next week.

Normally, halfpipes don’t get torn down so quickly – they are usually allowed to melt away. “As far as we know, this is just the second time that this sort of changeover’s ever been done,” said Brad Williams, director of product management for the utility vehicles division of Bombardier, the Canadian company hired to make the switch. The first time was a year ago on this same course, at a World Cup event that served as a test run.

The preparation for Monday night began four years ago, when Bombardier was awarded the contract and started planning for the Games. While the company is in charge of snow grooming at all the Olympic slopes, from moguls to downhill, it immediately spotted the never-before-attempted halfpipe changeover as a challenge.

It knew it had to assemble a team of top snow groomers to get the job done.

“You have Olympic athletes here, but you also have Olympic-caliber groomers,” Williams said. “We were supposed to give these guys some training, but when I saw who was going to be here, I said, ‘These guys don’t need any training. They’re that good.'”

Snow groomers are generally a nocturnal breed, noticed little by the skiers and snowboarders they serve. Most are people who just like to ski and find the profession an easy excuse to stick around a course, Williams said. “But the people who really love it and make a career out of it – they’re the top-notch people.”

Klepser is one of them. Growing up around commercial fishing boats in Ketchikan, Alaska, he figured out early on that he is good with big, powerful machines, “especially anything with hydraulics,” he said.

Six years ago, after buying a home in Park City, he started getting interested in driving the cats, as the massive snow-grooming machines are known. After a while, he gained a sterling reputation as a groomer, particularly on drier, man-made snow.

“To be able to learn so much and get to be so respected to be involved in the Olympics – it’s just so cool, so righteous,” he said, showing the modern snowboarder vocabulary that infects many who move to Park City.

Klepser had always been interested in snow science, but when he learned he would be involved in the Olympics, he started studying in earnest. “Anytime a European would come down here, I’d just stick on them and be a sponge,” he said. “‘How do you do this? How do you do that?'”

At about 8 p.m. Monday, Klepser was piloting his cat on top of the halfpipe’s right wall of snow. He rammed his nine-ton machine into the wall, jerking back and forth, shoving a huge swath of snow into the channel that hours earlier had been the site of American gold, silver and bronze. A few times, he came teeteringly close to the edge, toward the 17-foot drop into that channel, but he always pulled back at the last minute.

(“They’re very exciting machines – especially if you’re a guy,” Williams said later. Williams, despite his high position within the company, is the kind of guy who says, with honest regret, that “you keep getting promoted and, unfortunately, you get to spend less time driving these things.”)

All along, Klepser was watching and feeling, through the blade at the end of his 275-horsepower weapon. He looked for snow that seemed a little crustier, a little more powdery or a little more wet than he’d expected.

“A couple of times just now, I ran into some pockets of snow that just didn’t belong there,” he said mid-plow. “They just didn’t feel right coming off the blade. They were soft, but they weren’t sugary. They were a mushy soft.”

Klepser and his three compadres worked all the way through Monday night, unknown to the skiers who would benefit from their work Wednesday. Klepser’s shift ended at midnight, but he wanted his boss to let him stay until the job was done: “I’ve been preparing for this. I got my rest beforehand, and I’m ready to stay as long as I have to.”

By 8 a.m. Tuesday, the halfpipe was gone. It took more than a week to build and sculpt it, but it took only hours to rip it down. Snow tillers spent Tuesday smoothing out the area to make it a suitable end point for snowboard slalom.

“It’s all gone,” Williams said. “They did their job.”

Rodeo experiences rough ride; Protest may make it tougher for event to re-enter Olympics

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 14B

FARMINGTON, Utah – They’re handing out gold, silver and bronze for roping, riding and wrestling.

Too bad they’re not the real thing. For years, some rodeo aficionados have been trying to get rodeo made into a full Olympic sport. And this year, for the second time, the sport’s gotten quasi-official status, as a demonstration event at the Olympic Arts Festival.

But controversy and logistics have combined to make this probably the last Olympics rodeo for some time.

“Rodeo is not a sport, because half of the participants are unwilling,” said Steve Hindi, president of Showing Animals Respect & Kindness (SHARK), an animal rights group that has been dogging the Olympics rodeo. “I think we’re getting our message across.”

The Olympic Command Performance Rodeo, which concluded Monday, is an attempt to show off their sport for visitors.

“Cowboys practice as hard as anybody else,” said Jade Anderson, 17, of Annabella, Utah. “They should be in the real Olympics.”

But SHARK, along with the local Utah Animal Rights Coalition, lobbied Olympic officials for months to sever their ties with the rodeo. They said that many of the events, such as calf roping and steer wrestling, are cruel to the animals and often result in their death or serious injury.

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson stated his opposition to some elements of the Olympic rodeo and, for a time, the activists thought they might get their wish. They met with Mitt Romney, president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, who they say told them he considered calf roping inhumane. The activists offered to cancel their planned Olympic protests if the ties were severed.

But having the event go forward was important to its host city, Farmington (pop. 9,000). Without the rodeo, Farmington would remain best known for a small amusement park and being home to “Utah’s Funnest, Wildest, Biggest, Coolest Corn Maze.”

Local legislator Paul Ray was so incensed at the thought of severing the rodeo’s Olympic ties that he even referred to protesters as “terrorist groups” in a letter to Romney last month.

Last month, Romney said the Olympics would honor a contract signed with rodeo officials, and the event would still have Olympic Arts Festival status. The rodeo – and the protests – were on.

Along with the medals and cash prizes awarded to top finishers, the Olympic rodeo also has an international component. All the competitors are American or Canadian, and strong performances earn points for their nation’s team.

Besides a few flashy touches – a laser light show, techno music and an “all-lady Olympian drill team” that rode around the arena with Christmas lights fastened to its outfits – the rodeo featured the standard events.

About 60 people showed up to protest Sunday, although they called the protest off early because of the cold. Hindi also drove a large van with television screens on the outside, showing examples of what he considers animal cruelty at past rodeos.

Inside, fans said the protests were an annoyance they were trying to ignore.

“These animals cost a lot of money,” said Tom Davison, a Montana resident. “They’re like an investment. People aren’t going to hurt their own investment.”

But despite the temporary victory, rodeo fans and foes expressed doubt that there will be another Olympic rodeo soon. Hindi said he thinks their protests have tainted the sport for years to come. But there’s also a logistic issue: There will be no Olympics in America or Canada until 2010 at the earliest, and staging a rodeo overseas probably won’t be feasible.

While rodeo exists in places such as Australia and Argentina, only the United States and Canada have large, developed rodeo programs.

Romney was a special guest at Sunday night’s performance and received a hero’s welcome. His wife, Ann, is a competitor in dressage, the equestrian event that features a variety of often-indistinguishable trots, canters and walks. She and two others demonstrated the sport, dressed in traditional dressage breeches and riding horses with names like Gucci. It’s more Rodeo Drive than rodeo.

The audience applauded politely. (Romney described it as “as boring as paint drying.”)

Dressage is an Olympic equestrian medal sport, something rodeo can only aspire to. To some observers, the difference between the two was obvious.

“I guess the fancy horses get to be in the Olympics, but the working horses don’t,” said Tom Corrin of Salt Lake City.

Smile, darn it: that’s an order; Training manual instructs volunteers to exude glee

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 14B

SALT LAKE CITY – Attention, Olympic volunteers: It’s OK to have fun.

Encouraged, even.

According to the training manual given to the 30,000 volunteers at the Winter Games, volunteers need to “consciously remember” to enjoy themselves, lest they become too serious.

“A lot of people, especially around here, have trouble enjoying things,” said Ed Switzer, a retired civil engineer volunteering at a security entrance. “People are often a little more serious about things than they need to be.”

Excitability and unbounded glee are rarely among the many stereotypes thrust, fairly or not, upon Utahns. And since volunteers’ performance in the day-to-day tasks of running the Games are pivotal to Salt Lake’s perceived success or failure, officials have been training them for months.

As a result, volunteers were instructed in the ways of customer service, to always smile and say thank you at the end of conversations. They were told what to say when certain topics come up, like the bribery scandal (“There were some challenges in the past, but we all are now focused on staging very successful Games.”).

And they were also told to have fun, even if it goes against their natures. Under the heading “Enjoy! Have fun, celebrate, laugh,” the volunteer training manual warns: “You may think that this attribute is so natural that we don’t need to talk about it, but the reality is that we all will need to consciously remember it.”

As an example, the manual looks to volunteers at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. It quotes approvingly from a magazine article citing Sydney volunteers’ habits of turning “train directions into ditties, crowd control into dance routines, manure cleanup into synchronized skipping and scooping.”

After cataloging the ways Australian volunteers had such a good time, it notes that folks in Salt Lake may have a tougher time enjoying the moment. “We Americans tend to be a little more serious, particularly when we are feeling responsible. Perhaps we feel joyful, but we don’t express it as well as other cultures. Team 2002 – you have permission to ENJOY! – to laugh, to celebrate, to have a good time.”

Enjoyment was even enshrined as one of the official “expected traits of every Team 2002 member,” alongside things like being helpful, respectful and gracious.

“They really did emphasize enjoying it,” said Teresa Hartvigsen, a stay-at-home mom when the Olympics aren’t in town. “We were told to remember to have fun.”

Salt Lake organizers flew in two Sydney volunteers to talk to the new recruits about how to have fun working at the Games.

“The Australians just told us to relax and have a lot of fun,” said Shari Faulkner, a paralegal helping coordinate transportation at the Games. “We are reserved. We’re just a different type.”

Volunteers differed on how much Utahns deserved their reserved reputation. Some think it’s overblown. “Personally, I don’t have to make any special effort to enjoy all this,” said Pam Jolley, a comptroller for a pharmacy chain. “We read in the paper that we’re very serious people …. Maybe they don’t see the same people I do.”

“A lot of the foreign visitors have these ideas about Utah, and when they get here, they like it more than they expected,” Hartvigsen said. “I want to tell them, ‘See! We are a fun state!’ But I can’t.”

Volunteer training discourages that sort of talk.

But some others suggest there may be some truth to the reputation. “I’ve seen some volunteers who haven’t enjoyed themselves,” Switzer said. “It’s just a long, boring job to them. It’s just the type of person they are, having a hard time relaxing and enjoying things.”

“We’re not the type to be jumping around yelling ‘woo hoo!'” said Kirsten Cox, a middle school teacher who arranges transportation for media. “We’re more laid back, more Western. But I don’t think that makes us too serious.”