Olympic torch makes way back to Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Olympic torch makes way back to Tahoe

Tim Bowman, Tribune Editorial Assistant

The Olympic Torch for the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City will visit Squaw Valley, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, and South Lake Tahoe on its 13,500 mile journey around the United States.

The Salt Lake Olympic Committee hopes to add to the tradition of the Olympic Torch Relay in the United States, by visiting all of the nation’s previous host sites, or Olympic Sister Cities, of the Olympic Games.

“In the past (the Olympic Torch) has visited some Olympic Sister Cities. This is the first time in the United States Olympic history that it has visited all of the Sister Cities,” said Salt Lake Olympic Committee Director of the 2002 Torch Relay, Gillian Hamburger. “Each city that is awarded the Olympic Games’ organization committee sets its own relay. It was important to the Salt Lake Olympic Committee for the flame to visit all the Sister Cities.”

The flame carried in the relay and Olympic ceremonies originates at the site of the first Olympic Games held in ancient Greece. It then travels to the host country.

“What happens is the Hellenic Committee, which is based in Olympia, Greece, we get the flame from them and then it is taken to the host country,” Hamburger said. “They entrust us with this great symbol.”

The torch for the 2002 Games will make its trek over the course of 65 days. A number of unique modes of transportation will be used in its journey, such as snowmobiles, horse-drawn sleighs, dog sled, skier and ice skaters, in addition to traditional running torchbearers. More than 11,500 torchbearers will be used in the relay. The criteria for the honor of carrying the Olympic torch will be announced early next year, and all are encouraged to petition.

“The torchbearer selection process will be announced at the end of February 2001,” Hamburger said. “It is a two month long selection process that will occur in March and April.”

The news of the flame’s return to Lake Tahoe was received with great enthusiasm at Squaw Valley.

“We’re delighted,” said Squaw Valley Director of Public Relations Katja Dahl. “The Olympic heritage in this area has been a significant part of how the resort has developed.”

In 1954, Squaw Valley was a little-known-out-of-the-way lodge when owner Alexander Cushing put in a bid for the 1960 Olympics. Cushing, a former mayor of New York City, put forward an excellent case for Squaw as the host site of the Olympics and beat out major U.S. resorts vying for the Games such as Aspen, Colorado and Lake Placid, New York. Cushing put nearly $16 million into renovating the resort and solicited help from the U.S. Marines, and Navy which provided much of the necessary labor and Walt Disney who provided much of the financial backing. Cushing’s efforts are still evident at the Squaw Valley Resort.

“The Olympic Heritage is a daily reminder of Alex Cushing’s original dream to make Squaw Valley a world-renowned destination,” said Dahl.

With the disclosure of the torch’s route coming just this week, no plans have yet been made for for its reception at Squaw Valley, but it will certainly be a major event.

“I’m confident that we will do something,” Dahl said, “exactly what that is is still to be determined.”

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