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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2002-03-01

Olympic Torch Relay Comes to Salt Lake City
By Todd Warshaw

Photo by Todd Warshaw/Pool/Getty Images

Photo by Todd Warshaw/Pool/Getty Images
(Editor's note: Part 1 of Todd's adventure following the Olympic torch around the USA can be found in Sports Shooter v. 38.)

February 1: First thing in the morning we head to Garden of the Gods Park outside Colorado Springs. Amazing rock formations, and a very clear bright morning. The shot running around Balanced Rock is perfect, despite a couple operational problems as the torchbearer came through.

Most of the day is in the mountains, through small towns and mining areas, including Leadville- the highest altitude on the relay at 10,200 feet. Our security runners don't seem to be affected much (although their rotation got a lot quicker!), but the few times I had to get out and run for a shot- ugh. No thanks; I'll stick with oxygen-rich sea level!

The final shot for the day is a downhill skier at Vail, where it's chillingly cold with huge crowds- bigger than they had for the last world championship skiing event. Finally on to the hotel 60 miles away, where I get tasked with shooting credential mug shots for the staff involved with opening ceremonies.

Not exactly my idea of a relaxing evening, but I track down the 20 - odd people and get their pics, then take care of transmitting them to the SLOC command center. I'm on the list as well, although it's unlikely I'll be in the stadium. While it would be nice to see the FINAL torch run, I'm not too concerned since I've seen nearly the rest of them!

February 2: Our first shot out of the gate is, of all bizarre things, a swimmer taking the torch across a hot springs pool in Glenwood Springs. Why not, it's only 12 degrees out?! We advance to the pool, and between the video and still group, the advance team organizing the site, etc there are about 20 of us.

On a pool deck completely shrouded in steam, it's a challenge not to step into the pool! It's also a little disconcerting to us since if we can't see each other, how can we POSSIBLY see the torchbearer or flame?!
We're blessed with a day 'off' tomorrow, so the advance staff has set up a nice evening. We have a few videos of the staff, one of all the dogs we see along the way, and a slide show from my work. Lots of fun and time to relax without a 5 am wake up call.

Photo by Todd Warshaw/Pool/Getty Images

Photo by Todd Warshaw/Pool/Getty Images
February 3: There really isn't a day off here, just a staging day. The following day we'll cover nearly 600 miles, so we have to stage vehicles and staff throughout Utah and Northern AZ.

For the core caravan group (about 40 of us) we head to Moab, for a scouting trip to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. We'll also be doing a dress rehearsal of the ceremony at Delicate. It's a fun hike - cool clean morning.

We get to spend a couple hours up at the arch waiting for all the people involved to arrive, very mellow and relaxing. Last time I was here it was 105 degrees - not so much fun!!

After hiking back down (its about 2 miles each way) we organize things at the hotel and on Media 1 for the upcoming week, then settle down for a Super Bowl party with the crew. It was fun to watch a pretty good game and be able to enjoy it with some friends. Thankfully it's over early, since we roll at 4:00 am the next day. 45 states down, one to go.

February 4: Yup, it's early. Getting up at 3:30 am is just not appealing. After arriving at the Delicate Arch parking lot a couple of us head up immediately.

It's 5 am and totally dark, just some moonlight and the stars. GREAT hike. We weren't especially in a hurry - the site was already scouted and our positions were set, but it was 10 degrees and the only way to keep warm was to keep hiking.

The National Park Service had marked the trail with glow-sticks every 30 yards or so, without those we would have been in trouble. Even after hiking it the day before, it looks completely different in the dark.

They also took care of limiting the number of people and checking credential lists - more stringently than many sporting events I've done. That kept the crush of media and VIP's to a manageable number, especially since there is a very limited amount of space.

Eventually we head back to the airport for the flight over to Bryce Canyon National Park. Not a bad area to fly low over! The Bryce running is a bit chaotic. It's a short distance over a pretty narrow route, so there's not much room for leeway.

Still able to get some nice images and got just a bit more running in as well!

By now I've gone since 4 am without food, and it's starting to show. Luckily about now it's dark, and I'm able to catch a lift to the hotel with one of our out-bound shuttle buses. After some quick transmitting and the best meal I've had all day, time for some rest!

February 5: It would be impossible to top the day we had yesterday and we have NOTHING today but running. No boats, no bikes, no alternative transportation to break up the day.

It's probably the toughest day of the relay in terms of pictures - no way to compare to yesterday's vistas and parks! But of course we still have to get through it, and we have a very smooth (and dull) day. It's a very rowdy crowd as we come through Provo - not what we expected near BYU!

February 6: To start off the day, we head out to the middle of a field south of SLC and wait for a re-enactment of the Pony Express to carry the torch past us. It seems sort of bizarre - there are 7 of us (video, drivers, myself) in the field, nothing in sight, 3 degrees as the sun rises.

Photo by Todd Warshaw/Pool/Getty Images

Photo by Todd Warshaw/Pool/Getty Images
Whatever, by now we're used to this! It's a beautiful morning as the flame comes past our position. Then we jump ahead to Salt Lake (the actual lake) for a boat segment - the last boat segment of the relay! We don our 'relay team' life jackets (which made a great souvenir!) and then, for some reason we have yet to figure out, we sat at the dock for 15 minutes as the flame began it's trip.

WHAT?! Wilson (the team video guy) and I try to convince them to launch, that we have to be able to SEE the flame to get any images of it and they tell us we all have to wait. We never heard a good reason why. When we finally do, we're so far back we don't see the boat we're after until the last TWO minutes of the ride --- 70 minutes! We see the flame for all of 2 minutes, during which time we shot right past it and the pilot refused to do a circle so we could shoot some more. Frustrating. And a preview of how little the purple jackets mean to anyone in Utah...

Our hotel tonight will be our final hotel - 3 nights in the same place!!! Of course, we're 2 hours late and get in at 1:30 am, so that excitement is not too evident with anyone the next morning!

February 7: Lots of small towns today, we're covering a good volume of torchbearers the last 2 days. One of the best moments of the relay is in Ogden early in the morning. Marland Turner is a high school janitor, he writes poems before every football and basketball game, and hasn't missed a game in nearly 30 years - the students absolutely adore him. He is the true definition of community inspiration, and when he runs, the ENTIRE school runs with him, probably 1000 people cramming both sides of the street and making their way down the route.

As we get to SLC the security is very evident. We get a first-hand look at the athlete's village as we run through, and then end up at the State Capitol, where there is a symbolic ceremony lighting off the Olympic rings built into the hillside high above the city.

The evening is wrapping up at the City-County building in downtown, where the last few torchbearers include Kristi Yamaguchi and John Stockton. The crowds are impressive, but nowhere near as intense as the small towns earlier in the day!

February 8: LAST DAY!!! We roll early- start running at 5:30 am. It's WARM out as we leave the hotel --- 50 degrees-plus. Odd. As the second torchbearer takes the flame, it was like someone flipped a switch - in an instant we had 40-mph winds, the temp dropped 30 degrees, and it started snowing.

Photo by Todd Warshaw/Pool/Getty Images

Photo by Todd Warshaw/Pool/Getty Images
WOW! A transformer blew, so the street was pitch black. We had a couple hours of snow and cold, then it finally cleared. Again, just packed streets and great crowds. We have a very stringent time requirement tonight (something about a worldwide live audience of nearly 3 BILLION people), and the crowds are slowing us a lot. We cut 40 minutes of break time in 3 breaks down to 10 minutes in 1 break, and make up most of our time.

About 3 pm we get the word that we will have tickets to the opening ceremonies, courtesy of JetSet Sports, our merchandising partner for the relay. It's a great gift that the crew absolutely deserves - everyone involved has dedicated somewhere between the last 70 days to 6 YEARS of their lives to this project, and tonight is the culmination.

Most of the crew has been released and gets to see the entire ceremony - us core caravan people will stay with the flame until close to the end.

When we roll up to the stadium we bail out and run to our seats, getting in just in time to see the USA team enter the stadium. It was an amazing ceremony, and when the flame finally enters the stadium you could almost hear the 200 people in purple breathe a sigh of relief and excitement! As soon as the cauldron bursts into flame, we run back to the trucks and head off to our FINAL party.

Well, we did it. Seems like a VERY long time ago (longer than the lengthy 70 days it actually was) we met up in Atlanta and did drive school.

As I started my next assignment (some corporate work for the games), my colleagues wanted to know how I survived, how I was able to keep going the whole trip. The very simple reason was the people.

Everyone on the staff was simply amazing - no matter how early/late/cold/tired/sick/etc we all were, someone picked you up and made you realize why this was going to be another amazing day. EVERY day.

Not just because of the inspiring torchbearers, or the crowds who waited for hours for our arrival, it was that and the fact that our crew, our team was always taking care of each other. It's hard to describe how much difference that makes. It made this once-in-a-lifetime experience just that, and above all else it made this possible.

(The 2004 Olympic Torch Relay en route to Athens, Greece is projected to be a 5.5 month tour of 5 continents and 130 countries --- ready?)

(What do Todd Warshaw and Sports Shooter publisher Bert Hanashiro have in common? Great photographers? Fine human beings? Fabulous taste in clothes and wine? NO! They're both Fresno State Bulldogs!)

 


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