SALT LAKE CITY, UT FEB. 7-16, 2002

See the 2002 Winter Olympics Photo Gallery!

I have just returned from an awesome nine - day trip to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, UT. What an opportunity to witness our country's best athletes compete from Park City, to Snow Basin, to Soldier Hollow, to Olympic Park, and to Olympic ice at the Salt Lake Ice Center. The Olympic spirit and American pride was evident each day as spectators walked around Olympic venues sporting US flags, jackets, and hats! It was a magical time of people stopping by and saying hello, to policemen volunteering their services to take a group photo at the Olympic Plaza. The people of Salt Lake should be proud in welcoming the world to their city. Olympic volunteers greeted you everywhere and were sincere in asking if you needed help or if you were having a great time.

My company, Silver Blade Tours, Inc. has been coordinating travel packages to major figure skating events world-wide for over 22 years, and this tour certainly was the highlight of my career. I had worked with another tour operator in this venture and I was able to take my husband and brother along for this trip and what a trip it was!

I braved the frigid SLC weather to watch ice skater and friend Todd Eldredge (2002 U.S. Men's Champion) carry the Olympic Torch. His parents, Ruth and John Eldredge along with his brother Scott met me on the street and we all waited with a huge banner to wave as he ran by. As soon as he got off the van to be in position for the Olympic flame, I yelled over to him and he came over to give us hugs and pose for pictures. What an exciting moment to see the Olympic flame up close and personal.

We all were looking forward to the Opening Ceremonies where Todd was selected to be a part of the honor guard carrying the U.S. flag from the World Trade Center. What a memorable moment and an honor for Todd! I watched the Opening Ceremonies in the warm comfort of Iggy's Sports Bar in Salt Lake City on a huge screen TV and agreed with others that this was the best Opening Ceremony ever presented. Upon leaving the restaurant, we were able to see the Olympic cauldron from a distance.

The security measures were indeed evident around Salt Lake City, especially noticeable as we stayed at the Crystal Inn, 4 blocks from the Salt Lake Ice Center and Salt Lake Olympic Square and Medals Plaza. As the week progressed some of the lines were longer going through security but the most time we had to wait was approximately 15 minutes. Olympic volunteers and the National Guard expedited our way through metal screeners.

While in Salt Lake, I got involved in the interesting pastime of pin collecting, and trading. Once you start collecting those pins you get hooked. I traded my company pins for Olympic pins, skating pins, and just great looking pins. What a blast it was to meet people from all over the US. I was able to purchase one of 25 limited edition framed set of NBC's pins depicting all of the winter sports. Only 500 NBC pins of the day were issued. We also spent time at the Olympic Superstore to buy souvenir hats, pins, key chains, and other gifts for relatives. I wasn't able to purchase the U.S Team beret by Roots but concluded my quest by purchasing them along with Olympic jackets online.

Hutch and Tom got up early at 3:15am on Tuesday to ride the Mountain Venue Express to Utah Olympic Park to watch the K120 Individual Ski Jump competition. Warm thermals and heavy jackets and hats still didn't protect their feet from feeling the numbing cold. Each day they were able to purchase tickets on-site for their transportation on the Mountain Venue Express. This was the easiest way to get from one venue to the next, especially to Snow Basin for the Ladies combined Downhill and Slalom and to Soldier Hollow for the Men's 10 km Biatholon and Women's 7.5 Km Sprint. They also stood along with many others to watch the Medals Ceremonies for the Men's Figure Skating events and also heard the music of Smash Mouth.

I attended both the Pairs short and long skating events, viewing the skating from a skybox. The skybox is located directly above the lower level and we had a great view of the Jumbotron. U.S. Team leaders came up to visit us one night and we were all presented with the U.S Team pin for figure skating. Governor Mike Leavitt stopped by to thank us all for coming to Salt Lake. Jim (Gold medal skeleton winner) Shea's parents visited us and took the time to pose for pictures. Other celebrity sightings included Tara Lipinski 1998 Ladies Gold medalist, Debi Thomas, Bronze Medalist from the1988 Olympics, and Christine Brennan from USA Today. I was able to wish good luck to U.S. Ice Dance Champion Peter Tchernyshev who along with his partner Naomi Lang endorses Silver Blade Tours, Inc. and is featured in our print advertisements for skating publications. They finished 11th overall in the Ice Dance event.

It was wonderful that the IOC made the correct decision to reward the Canadian pair skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier the gold medal along with Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze. Elena and Anton had trained for a few months in Stamford, CT where my brother is director of the Cassella Skating School. U.S. Pairs Champions John Zimmerman and Kyoko Ina at one time also trained in Stamford.

The Men's figure skating event was exciting as we all cheered on our U.S. team of Timothy Goebel (bronze medal), Todd Eldredge, (6th) and Michael Weiss, (7th). Todd moved up from 9th place to 6th overall and concluded his eligible career with a standing ovation. In the compulsory dance competition Israeli's Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski currently train in Stamford, CT with famed Russian coach, Natalia Dubova. What an exciting Ladies event as 2002 Worlds Bronze Medalist from the U.S. Sarah Hughes jumped her way from 4th to 1st place and the Gold Medal. Irina Slutskaya won the Silver Medal and crowd favorite Michelle Kwan the Bronze. Upcoming teen sensation Sasha Cohen skated to a 4th place finish.

We all were caught up in Olympic fever as we watched the exciting event of short track speed skating at the Salt Lake Ice Center. What a wonderful opportunity to watch Apollo Anton Ono in the 1000 meters Preliminaries and the skaters from various countries compete in the 5000-Meter relay. It was quite amazing to see how close the skaters and their blades were, while the skaters speeded around the rink.

Our last day was spent traveling to visit Olympic stadium and the Olympic Flame. It was great to see this during the day, the flags of nations, the huge stadium, and the Olympic cauldron. We visited Washington Square and Olympic Plaza and walked around downtown for last minute purchases to bring home. The Olympic Games was all that was perceived: exciting, wonderful, and patriotic. America certainly needed this respite from world events and it was a great shot in the arm to boost the moral of all. Long live the games!

Submitted by Claudyne Cassella Hutchinson
Silver Blade Tours, Inc.

Silver Blade Tours, Inc.
"The Skating Tour Experts"
Claudyne Cassella Hutchinson
2672 Flowing Well Road, DeLand, FL 32720-8903 USA
Tel. (386) 943-4071 - Fax: (386) 738-2512
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