The price of Salt Lake

No matter the cost, fans cash in on Olympic souvenirs

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— Set your Aass down and have a brew Today's hospitality award goes to Norway House. Unlike many of the team houses, Norway welcomes the public. Among other things, guests are invited to step into the Norway House Bar, plunk down five American dollars and pop the top on an Aass beer (that's the name of a very old Norwegian brewery, not a specific part of the Norwegian anatomy).

You can choose from Aass Lager or Aass Dark. I can vouch for both flavors. They have a nice creamy head.

Unlike other beers in Utah, these beers are not 3.2. Americans will also appreciate the size of the cans they contain 16.9 ounces.

Next stop, Fort Worth Thousands of commuters and Olympic spectators are shuttling into Olympic Square in downtown Salt Lake City this week on DART light rail cars.

DART stands for Dallas Area Rapid Transit. That's right Dallas, Texas.

Utah Transit Authority TRAX trains lacked the capacity to meet the demand, so 200 light rail cars from Big D were shipped to Salt Lake.

The full fare to ride the train is just $1.25, or $2.25 all day. But not everyone is coughing up the fare.

Ed Chambers, a homeless man from Concord, Calif., said he's been caught twice riding the train without a ticket, and a judge has fined him a total of $1,500. "I'm not gonna pay," Chambers said. "What can they do to me? I don't have the money."

Here is how the TRAX system works you step up to an automated ticket vending machine and feed your bills and coins in. The machine prints out a ticket you carry onto the train. Only, there's no one on board to take the ticket. Instead, UTA employees conduct random spot checks. The fine for a first violation is $650 and the second offense will nick you for $850.

The Dallas donation of light rail cars isn't the only such contribution Utah Olympic organizers have received from afar. Many hundreds of city buses from Denver, San Francisco, San Diego, Cleveland and Baltimore have helped to shuttle spectators from remote park-and-ride lots.

Light rail cars were packed with commuters on Tuesday. Get in line, spend money The Olympic tradition includes souvenirs, and you can purchase almost anything with the SLOC logo on it. Here are some examples:

n Infant dishes including a no-spill mug with Olympic lovable characters printed on it, $20.

n Inflatable flying disc, $5.

n Evolution Alpine skis printed with various Olympic logos, $595.

n Otto the Otter action figure, $12.

Michelle Kwan sighting

Manasseh Atkinson of Salt Lake is working for the New Zealand consulate during the Olympics, handing out travel brochures.

His table is set up in a downtown gift shop where a large Olympic flag is spread out with an invitation for visiting athletes only to sign in. Michelle Kwan stopped in not once, but twice, Atkinson said.

"I said, 'You look kind of familiar,' and she said, 'I'm Michelle Kwan.'"

Atkinson was too shy to ask for her phone number.

Seven hours and one book later Christine Helfrich and her friends are from Salt Lake. So, it's a little surprising they were willing to stand in line for seven hours at the Roots USA store in their own city to purchase those must-have team berets. In another week the store figures to have quieted down. But Helfrich and her friends came Tuesday.

"We took turns going to the potty," Helfrich said. "I managed to finish a collection of stories by my favorite mystery writer, Nevada Barr, while I was standing in line."

Helfrich is a guest performer at the Olympic venues, even though she has mixed emotions about her hometown hosting the games.

"At first, I really was not thrilled," Helfrich said. "But I decided that since it was going to happen, I'd enjoy it. I still have mixed feelings."

Helfrich is worried about growth and development being triggered by the Olympics.

In the meantime, she's performing with a Balkan folk chorus. They sing songs in six different languages, although none of them has a Balkan ethnic background.

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