Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, and athletes and visitors came from all around the world. Many more tuned in to see the competitions on ice rinks, ski hills and racing tracks.
Salt Lake City is also home to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And while not the focus of the Games, there were moments the days and nights of competitions 20 years ago linked with the Church.
Here are several from the Church News archives.
There were 55,000 attending in person and some 3.5 billion viewers globally who tuned into the Olympics opening ceremonies on Feb. 8, 2002. The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, then known as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, was part of those ceremonies, where President George W. Bush opened the Games.
The choir members, with the Utah Symphony, performed “The Star-Spangled Banner.” They also performed “Call of the Champions,” the 2002 Olympic theme composed John Williams, Spiro Samara’s “Olympic Hymn” and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” The choir also provided backup to Sting and Yo-Yo Ma’s duet of “Fragile.”
Choir member Sally Brinton said: “It was spectacular. It was uplifting. I felt for that moment in time that the world was unified.”
The Tabernacle Choir sang earlier in the day at the Utah State Capitol at an event with Bush. Bush was one of the world leaders who met with the First Presidency.
As the traditional torch relay arrived in Utah and then in Salt Lake City, it passed by the Church Administration Building on Feb. 7, 2002. President Gordon B. Hinckley, his counselors President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, and several members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stood out on the steps as Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles ran it up the steps.
“To every one we extend our gratitude and best wishes. Let this be a great and historic and wonderful occasion for everyone who joins with us here in this beautiful city and in this great mountain place of beauty, extending best wishes, our congratulations and our gratitude,” President Hinckley said as he held the torch.
He passed the torch to Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who ran with the torch as it headed to the Salt Lake City-County Building.
The torch passed Emigration Canyon before briefly stopping at This Is the Place Heritage Park earlier in the day as those in the relay helped the torch make its way downtown.
A month later, during the Paralympic Games torch relay, the First Presidency and several members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gathered outside the Church Administration Building.
“We want you to succeed, and we hope that this will be a great and marvelous and wonderful occasion for everyone who participates. Let everyone be a winner. Hurray!” President Hinckley said.
Tabernacle and Conference Center
During the Games, the choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square performed with several different guest artists in the Tabernacle for the Cultural Olympiad.
The first one included mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, John Williams, the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets and Salt Lake’s International Children’s Choir. Williams also directed the choirs and orchestra in the “Call of the Champions.”
Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, a cappella ensemble King’s Singers and percussionist Evelyn Glennie were featured guest artists at the other Cultural Olympiad concerts.
In the Conference Center, a cast of more than 1,000 dancers, singers and actors staged “Light of the World — a Celebration of Life” on a domed stage. “Light of the World” included the story of the Creation, the purpose of life and several inspirational stories in the Olympics and the Church’s history.
On Temple Square, more than 200 sister missionaries wearing flags of their home countries with their name tags greeted an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Olympic visitors a day. Tours were available in 40 languages, with more available upon request.
“There is a feeling of great anticipation from the sister missionaries,” then-Temple Square Mission President M. Garfield Cook said. “They know that out of this is going to come so much good for the world. They sense they are part of it. They feel they are a part of history.”
A dozen banners were hung on downtown buildings as a backdrop for the Games — and also the medals plaza. One of a figure skater, more than 20 stories tall, hung from the 28-story Church Office Building. A banner was also hung on the Museum of Church History and Art.
In the news
An interview President Hinckley did with anchor Tom Brokaw aired on NBC on Feb. 22, two days before the closing ceremonies, and included Latter-day Saints, the Book of Mormon, tithing, polygamy and the Church’s role in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
“The Olympics will bring people here from everywhere,” President Hinckley said. “I think there will be a better understanding as a result of people coming here.”
On Feb. 7, NBC’s “Today” show broadcast from Salt Lake City and featured the Church, including a live Tabernacle Choir broadcast from Temple Square. It also included quotes from Presidency Hinckley.
“We are just ordinary people trying to do an extraordinary work,” President Hinckley said.
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve also briefly appeared on the show, answering questions about the choir and the construction of the Salt Lake Temple.
The Church was also mentioned in the several news reports around the world.