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Archive for Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Park City is Mardi Gras on ice, with more cops

February 12, 2002

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— This historic silver mining town's Main Street resembles Mardi Gras on snow. With extra cops.

"Can I look inside your bag?" the police officer in a bright yellow ski jacket asked politely.

The brightly garbed law enforcement officers were everywhere on Park City's steeply pitched main drag, gathered in bunches of two and three every half block. The street was closed to traffic, and Olympic celebrants roamed the outdoor food stands.

The extra law enforcement presence did not dampen the enthusiasm of people from all over the globe who came to see and be seen.

"Do you know what a rooster says in English and what a rooster says in Spanish?" a man from South America called out to pas-sersby. "In English a rooster says 'cock-a-doodle doo.' In Spanish he says, 'Cook-ooo-loo-koo!'"

Whatever. It's a street party for the entire world.

The folks from Coca-Cola put a heated tent over a vacant lot and built a false-front western building on the street level. Inside, children shopped for Coke souvenirs. On the street three hyper young men employed by Coke were using drum sticks to bang out staccato rhythms on metal trash can lids. They weren't particularly gifted, but the crowd that gathered screamed for more.

At a store called "Roots," the line of people waiting to get in stretched out the door and numbered 43. The eager shoppers wanted a crack at the official uniform clothing of the U.S. Olympic Team.

"My wife sent me here to get a certain hat," Ken Klestinec of San Diego deadpanned.

Kathy Herriage came all the way from Dallas to be at the Winter Games. But she doesn't expect to attend any competitions.

She came as part of the "More Than Gold" ministry, simply to volunteer. She began at 8:15 a.m. Saturday dispensing coffee to other volunteers. From 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. she had a special duty, manning one of the many outdoor burners that celebrants used to warm their hands. The burners were well-disguised in large steel cauldrons fitted with gas logs. Strangers gathered by the warming flames and fell into conversation.

Herriage stood faithfully by her burner with an igniter, in case the wind blew out her personal Olympic flame.

The security on Main Street, though pervasive, was unobtrusive. It was even less of an issue for spectators arriving in the pre-dawn light at Utah Olympic Park for early morning competitions. The security process, which took about 45 minutes, was similar to going through airport security.

The screeners were cheerful, but required people to activate all cell phones and cameras so it could be verified that they were genuine. They even shoot a single frame with the cameras, obligingly pointing the point-and-shoots at their owners. The volunteers were backed up by soldiers in fatigues.

For former Nordic combined Olympian Ryan Heckman, this trip marked a chance to finally enjoy the Olympics as a spectator. Heckman competed in 1992 at Albertville, France, and in 1994 at Lillehammer, Norway.

"In 1998 at Nagano, I was working for CBS," Heckman said. "That was hard for me. Now that I've gone off and done other things, I can enjoy these Olympics."

Steamboat (Colo.) Pilot and Today reporter Tom Ross is on assignment at the Olympics.

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