Caldron heralds Olympics

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The 2006 Winter Olympics have begun.

For the next 16 days, two flames will burn brightly in honor of the Games -- one in Turin, Italy and the other in downtown Steamboat Springs.

When Nelson Carmichael arrived at the Routt County Courthouse to light the caldron Friday night, the 2006 Winter Olympics already had begun halfway around the world.

But in Steam-boat, known as Ski Town USA, it didn't feel like the Olympics had started until the flame peeked out from the edges of the 13-foot-tall caldron.

The caldron will burn from 6 to 10 p.m. nightly until the Olympics conclude Feb. 26.

Carmichael won the bronze medal in men's moguls in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. He was Steamboat's first Olympic medalist. He also competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Small said he was overwhelmed by emotion during the Opening Ceremonies with the United States contingent.

"Going into that stadium, especially being from a small town, I was not used to large stadiums anyway," Carmichael said. "There were 80,000 people there. Football players are probably used to it. A skier isn't used to it. There is so much anticipation."

Carmichael doesn't remember much from the 1998 Open-ing Ceremonies, but he enjoyed the show four years later.

"In Albertville, it was a much smaller stadium" he said. "The show was very artsy, very wacky. It was very Cirque de Soleil."

Carmichael went on to win a bronze medal in a very memorable Winter Olympics for him.

Today, Steamboat can add to its Olympics tradition when the U.S. Nordic Combined Olympic Team opens competition with the individual Gundersen event. Steamboat's Todd Lodwick and Billy Demong were two of the best jumpers during training earlier this week.

Steamboat's Olympic flame will burn each day in honor of a different Steamboat Olympian. On Friday, it burned for Lodwick. By noon today, Steamboat will know whether he medaled. This afternoon, NBC will replay portions of the competition.

The caldron used in Steam-boat four years ago during the Salt Lake City Games is again being used this year. David Crisler, director of slope and vehicle maintenance for Steamboat Ski Area, and his crew built the caldron and repainted it gold for the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Ferrelgas is supplying the gas for the caldron, which is expected to burn about 80 gallons of fuel a night, said Mike Lane, public relations director for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

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