2002? Issue 79: July 1995



OK, OK, So I’m sure everyone knows by now. Salt Lake City is getting the 2002 Winter Games. There really isn’t much use in complaining about it, so I’m not going to.

Salt Lake City is getting the 2002 Winter Games. Issue 79: July 1995
Salt Lake City is getting the 2002 Winter Games. Issue 79: July 1995

Anyway, on Friday morning June 16, 1995, I got my ass out of bed, dressed and out of the house by 8:00 a.m.(which was no small feat, considering that it was the beginning of Summer break). I drove down to the City and County Building to check out the show. My plan was hopefully to be able to photograph the disappointment of our not winning the bid. I got great parking about a block away, one of things I love about Salt Lake—you can still get parking within a few blocks of anything. With camera on shoulder, I went to investigate the happenings. 

To say it was a media circus would be an understatement, but I should say I noticed—I was hit, struck, bombarded by—advertisement everywhere. All the banners, streamers and balloons had a tail from some sponsor. The news channels were on everything. Actually they had all the really good parking, outlining the entire block. Across from the main entrance to the City building, Channel 5 had set up a giant screen, not only could I be at the party—I could watch myself be at the party, then I could watch myself watch myself…enough of that. 

There were food booths, the standard T-shirt sales, mock Olympic events (such as a cross country skiing course set up on real dirty snow) and all those banners. You know those sales banners, if I wasn’t assed to the complete commercialization of things, I might have thought this was a party for Coke. Though, it wasn’t just Coke—everyone and their cousin had their name advertised somewhere on something connecting them to 2002. 

There were kids everywhere: in lines, running around, skiing. I had to watch my feet at all times to make sure I wasn’t going to step on any of them monkeys. Then I caught on to what was going on, it was all part of the show. There was an Olympic torch lighting ceremony that came down State Street from the Gallivan Center. This is what the kids were for … press photo opportunities… the route of the parade had been lined with kids from invited schools and camps. This is the United States at its’ best, we show our patriotism by putting our children out front so they can get a better look at what the sponsors are selling. 

After the parade was the Mormon Tabernacle Choirs‘ turn at our heart strings, if the children couldn’t make us buy, maybe religion could. Then came our local newscaster celebrities, who introduced Steve Young (quarterback for the 49ers) to raise the excitement even higher. He spent his mic time leading the crowd in cheers, telling us that “maturity” was what we needed to win, the second time around would be the charm … you know the routine. 

I spent this time thinking about how amazing, it would be if after all this—all the kids,religion, celebrities, big bands—we didn’t win. I was caught up, alright? How could I not be? I was now interested in seeing where this giant hot air balloon was going to land. As the announcement came, the crowd went silent, the guy next to me that had been hitting on me for the last half hour moved closer and I actually cared about what they were about to say. As they said that Salt Lake City had won the bid, the crowd went crazy, and the balloons and streamers flew, my head fell into my hands and I screamed “Nooooo”. 

Not because of the Olympics, but because of the consumerism. The Olympics are not about athletes, competition and sportsmanship. They’re about sponsorships, commercials and logos. Because we’re patriotic, we will buy Coke and Nike products blindly.  That to me was what that entire Olympic party was about, selling stuff to us suckers that were patriotic enough to buy into the whole thing. 

Now, there really is no reason to complain about the Olympics coming here, because they are coming. Maybe with their arrival we will see a change in the policies about alcohol and smoking—these are big consumer products. But what I really think we should be paying attention to is the fact that all this patriotism and hoopla is being aimed at the children, and unless somebody says something, they’re just going to be taught to follow blindly. 

Anyone who has thrown a party knows you wake up and feel like shit, with half of your CDs gone, a cigarette butt in every glass and your cat trapped in the cupboard above the sink all night. Someone has had sex in your bed and your feet are sticking to the floor. You think to yourself  “all this so I didn’t have to drive”. Hold that thought until 2002! Keep it in mind as you go to the polls to vote your tax money to support this party.

Read more from the SLUG archives here: 
Local Artist Spotlight: Lori Nelson
Movie Review: Cronos: August 1994