Olympic torch makes way into Utah for first timePosted: Monday February 04, 2002 8:35 AM
Updated: Monday February 04, 2002 4:00 PM
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, Utah (AP) -- A wait of more than three decades ended at sunrise Monday when the Olympic flame crossed through the Delicate Arch to begin the final leg of its journey to Salt Lake City.
After a brief American Indian ceremony, runner Frank B. Arrowchis, a member of the Northern Ute Tribe, and his granddaughter, Stephanie Laree Spann, blessed the torch with an eagle wing.
Spann then ran with the torch around the area next to the red sandstone arch, one of Utah's most enduring natural symbols, to mark the flame's entry into the host state of the Winter Games.
Arrowchis began the ceremony as the first rays of sun hit the snow atop the La Sal Mountains to the southeast. The morning was clear and crisp, with temperatures below freezing.
A big black crow perched on a red rock boulder cawed loudly at the dignitaries gathered near the arch, then it soared out of sight.
About 200 people watched the ceremony, including Gov. Mike Leavitt, who was visiting the Delicate Arch for the first time.
"It's just such a fitting way to begin the run," said Mitt Romney, Salt Lake Organizing Committee president. He called the visit of the torch to the arch "the perfect confluence of two enduring symbols." A team of runners took the flame through the national park and toward Moab, about five miles away, after leaving the arch.
The flame will arrive in Salt Lake City on Thursday, after a 21,722-kilometer (13,500-mile) journey in which it was carried through 46 states. It was driven into Utah on Sunday from Grand Junction, Colorado.
This rugged and once isolated land now welcomes hikers, mountain bikers, river-rafters and off-roaders in droves during the busy spring and summer months. There'd be plenty of solitude here in February, if not for the torch.
After the ceremony at Delicate Arch, a sandstone structure created by erosion, the torch was to visit Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park on Monday.
On Tuesday, it starts in Cedar City and continues its journey to Salt Lake City, where it will be used to light a cauldron at the opening ceremony Friday. The identity of the final torch carrier has been kept a secret.
For Salt Lake City, the games are the culmination of an effort that began in the mid-1960s, when a group of civic leaders first began lobbying for the games. Salt Lake City finally won them in 1995, though that bid subsequently was tainted by a bribery scandal.