The Good, The Bad, The 2002 Olympics



Hosting the Olympics is one of the most, if not the most, exciting things that can happen in any city on the entire planet. For around 14 days, one city turns into the headquarters of a worldwide celebration of friendly competition. Every two years, thousands of athletes from countries all over the world come together to compete for the gold and see who is the best athlete at a particular sport. The Olympics rotate between the Summer Games and the Winter Games. Each season of games occurs every four years, the two then offset with each other so that either the Winter Games or the Summer Games occur every two years. [citation needed]

The Olympic Games date to 776 BC, but some speculate these were not the first games. Instead, these were known to be the first games that began an era of the occurrence every four years. At the beginning there was only one event known as the Stadium. It consisted of a 200-yard dash, which at that time was the length of the stadium. As the years went on, more and more events were added up until 393 AD, when the Christian Byzantine Emperor Theodosius eliminated the games entirely. Then, on March 24, 896, the modern Summer Games were brought to life. (Nostos)

In the first versions of the Olympics, the Winter Games were not included. It wasn’t until 1948 that the Winter Olympics were instigated and even then, the Summer and Winter Games were held in the same year. Starting in 1992, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to have the games alternate every two years. [citation needed]

In 1995, Sion, Switzerland, Quebec City, Canada, Ostersund, Sweden and Salt Lake City were selected to be candidates to host the 2002 winter games with Salt Lake City emerging the victor.  The Beehive State became the fourth state in the United States to be a host of the Winter Olympics.  Somewhere around 2,400 people from 77 different nations competed in 78 different events.  However, in 1998, a controversy was raised stating that the IOC, took bribes from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to bring the Olympics to Salt Lake. (McDonald)

In February 1999, CNN U.S. reported that in the previous month, 14 IOC members had received cash or favors from the Salt Lake Bid committee, and 10 more had been accused. After these members got word that they were to be under heavy investigation, many resigned their positions, perhaps fearing that they would be discovered.  This caused the controversy to blow up into something more. Plans to enclose the $29-million speed skating oval were under way before the contract to host the Olympics was given out, which could be seen as an attempt in bribery. Also, one of the members of the IOC owned a ski area venue and had put $13.8 million into building a new hotel that members of the IOC could reside in during the games. (LaMotte)

The Olympic cauldron on the campus of The University of Utah. Photo by Landon Freter.

Not everything about the 2002 Winter Olympics was full of controversy. In fact, hosting the Olympic Games had a major impact on not just the city of  Salt Lake, but the entire state of Utah as a whole. It gave the chance for many people from around the world to see what the state is all about. Hosting the Olympics brought many different cultures together for some great friendly competitive action. They also brought in over 250,000 visitors to Utah, along with 2.1 billion viewers in 160 different countries and had a worldwide audience for 17 days straight. (Haws) “Even before the games started, the impact was very real. 35,000 jobs appeared in Utah from 1996-2003 thanks to the $1.3 billion dollar injection into the local economy.” (Haws) This count shows that indeed, while the Olympics were happening in 2002, Salt Lake City was one of the best places to be, whether it was the location of residence, or if one was traveling to see the festivities. (Billings)

Records were broken, history was made and it was all done on the state-of-the-art facilities that were built specifically for the arrival of the Olympics. The sites stretched all across northern Utah as millions of dollars were put into constructing these buildings to be the top quality for these athletes. Even after the Olympics, these monumental buildings,  such as the Ogden Ice Sheet and the Energy Solutions Arena (formerly known as the Delta Center) are still in use today. For a small fee, patrons may skate on the ice, shoot the luge, and even snowboard in the half pipe as all the famous athletes did in 2002. (McDonald)

Now that the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games has come and gone, The Salt Lake Tribune reports that there has been chatter between the government and large business regarding the feasibility of joining forces to begin a multimillion-dollar campaign to bring the Olympics back to Salt Lake City in 2022. (Gorell) There is a lot of worry that things might happen the way they did in 2002 with all the controversy. Many people agree that Salt Lake is better suited to host the Olympics now than it was in 2002. A few main arguments are the fact that there will be light-rail trains that will give patrons quick access to downtown to and from the airport as well as surrounding areas. Another reason is the new City Creek mall that recently opened up in downtown Salt Lake City, which is attracting thousands every day. All we can hope for is that this is enough to bring back the once-in-a-lifetime experience.


Through all the highs and lows that came out of Salt Lake City hosting the 2002 Olympic games, nobody can deny that it will be an event to be remembered forever. From the disappointing scandals to the triumph atop the podiums, Salt Lake will be eternally engraved with the fact that it put on one of the most successful and stressful Winter Games in the history of the Olympics.

Landon Freter is a senior at the University of Utah. He is majoring in mass communication with an emphasis on journalism and plans to graduate in May 2012.


A.C. Billings and S. Eastman, “Framing Identities: Gender, Ethnic and National Parity in Network Announcing of the 2002 Winter Olympics,” Journal of Communication 53 (2003): 569-86.

Scott Haws, “Legacy of the Olympics lives on in Utah’s economy,” KSL, February 20, 2012.

CNN U.S., “New Salt Lake Olympic Leader Vows Clean Games,” February 11, 1999.

Nanette McDonald, Salt Lake City: Site of the 2002 Olympic Winter Game (Salt Lake City: Great Mountain West Supply, 1998).

Mike Gorrell, “Salt Lake City in the hunt for 2022 Olympics?” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 13,2012.

Nostos Helenic Information Society (UK), “Brief History of the Olympic Games.”