Park City comes alive

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— This historic silver mining town's Main Street resembled Mardi Gras on snow Saturday afternoon. 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 passersby. "In English a rooster says 'cock-a-doodle doo.' In Spanish he says, 'Cook-ooo-loo-koo!'"

Whatever. It was a street party with extra security.

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, kids 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.

Kent Kirkpatrick of Steamboat Springs wandered by, relaxing after serving as a ski jump marker during the morning's Nordic combined K90 competition. Kirkpatrick observed wryly that he had been assigned to stand at the 54-meter mark on the landing hill. Since no competitor jumped fewer than 80 meters, Kirkpatrick was somewhat superfluous during the competition.

"I was standing right next to Mitch Clementson," Kirkpatrick said. "We just stood in the sun all day and watched them soar over us.

"It was fantastic."

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 actually attend any competitions.

She came as part of the "More Than Gold" ministry, simply to volunteer. She began at 8:15 a.m. dispensing coffee to other volunteers. From 2 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 own 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 the Nordic Combined ski jumping. The process, which took about 45 minutes, was very 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, but they did not appear to be armed.

Larry Glueck was another Steamboat resident who volunteered as a ski jumping marker. He used the opportunity Saturday to get acquainted with his colleagues. "I'm meeting some fascinating ski jumping people," Glueck said. "I met a guy who jumped in the 1942 Olympics."

For former Nordic combined Olympian Ryan Heckman Saturday 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."

Nancy Spillane, mother of Steamboat Nordic combined Olympian Johnny Spillane, was just glad to get the opening competition jitters behind her.

"I did all my crying at 5 a.m. this morning," Nancy said. "I just cried into my pillow. I said, 'OK, I've got that out of the way.'"

Tom Ross is on assignment at the Olympics. His e-mail address is tross@steamboatpilot.com

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