Olympic Flame Trip to Athens Sparks Excitement in Machen

Slouching sideways in a large armchair next to the lit fireplace, U President Bernie Machen announced he now has the Olympic spirit, just in time for the holidays.

After spending hundreds of hours in preparations for the Games during his four years at the U, Machen received a little payback earlier this week.

Because of the U’s integral role with the 2002 Olympics, Machen is a member of Salt Lake Organizing Committee’s Board of Trustees. As a trustee, Machen was invited to travel to Athens, Greece, to take part in the passing of the Olympic flame Monday. He returned to Salt Lake City Wednesday.

Greece’s Hellenic Olympic Committee passed the flame to a number of Utahns including SLOC President Mitt Romney, during a ceremony at Athens’ Panathinaikon Stadium, site of the 1896 Olympics.

The passing of the flame ended 20 years of work to receive the Olympic bid and then prepare for the Games.

The group spent very little time in Athens?flying in at 10 a.m. Monday, and flying out by 11 p.m. the same day.

“The trip was not so much about seeing history as it was being a part of history,” Machen said.

The 12-hour flight to and from Greece was long, Machen said, “But it was fun.”

Machen used the time to speak with people he works indirectly with as president of the U.

Randy Dryer, a member of the U Board of Trustees, traveled with the group of politicians and Utah dignitaries. Dryer is the chairman of the Utah Sports Commission-the non-profit organization that will run venues like the ski jump and luge after the Games.

Greta Peterson, wife of former U President Chase Peterson, also traveled with the group.

After receiving the flame, 100 Utahns boarded a plane with the light and flew to Atlanta. There, Muhammad Ali lit Salt Lake City’s torch. Runners will pass the light through 46 states before igniting the flame at the Opening Ceremony held in Rice Eccles Stadium Feb. 8.

[email protected]