Pass the torch already

By Chronicle Senior Staff

The Olympic Games have traditionally functioned similarly to one of their most popular forms of event: the relay.

One city vies for the right to host the games, the world turns its attention to that city for a couple of weeks, and then the baton is passed on to the next city.

But Salt Lake City has been acting like an only child that just discovered its new baby brother, Torino.

The relighting of the Salt Lake City torch, the constant mention of “the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City,” the local news comparisons of “their opening ceremonies versus ours”-it all defeats what has become a central purpose of the games: a celebratory competition during which the world can pause and develop a greater understanding of our various neighbors.

Both local and national officials and media have made a mockery of the spirit of the games by trying to shift the focus away from Italy and back home to the United States.

Of course, most nations spotlight only their own athletes during the games because that’s where the nation’s interest lies. If Salt Lake City were celebrating its local athletes and highlighting Utah in a positive light vis–vis these champions of the ice and snow, the state would fall in suit with the rest of the world.

But this is not the case.

Instead, Salt Lake City has refused to let the spotlight shift from its 2002 Olympic fiasco-turned-success Games.

Potential presidential candidate Mitt Romney fed off yet more airtime in Torino as he smiled in the crowds and Bob Costas spoke about his rsum, essentially turning a celebration of global games into a national partisan political moment.

It is an awesome accomplishment that Salt Lake City was able to host a global event and ultimately do so with such success. But the Olympics should not be politicized. They should call attention to other countries and make people conscious of varying cultures. The games are educational and wake people up to facts about such tiny countries as Trinidad and Tobago.

People can see representatives from far-off countries and hear even the shortest bits of information about their traditions and history. Rather than just the top countries in the world, everyone can compete on a level playing field. When people can see tangible representations of that which would otherwise be considered foreign, it brings a whole new perspective to their understanding of the world.

In addition, cities such as Salt Lake City can tout their unique attributes, their beauty, their rich history, their public transportation and compassionate residents.

But there comes a time when a city must stop living in the past like a 30-year-old man telling tales of his last-minute high school state championship heroics.

The Olympics are happening thousands of miles away, and Salt Lake should allow Torino the same opportunities that Nagano, Japan, provided Salt Lake City. It’s time to back down and take part in the global pride of the games. It’s time to celebrate our local athletes and live vicariously through them-in the now rather than through the past.

It’s time to stop reminding the world to look at us. They do enough of that every day with the United States’ global political dominance. Instead, Salt Lake City and the rest of the United States should take these games as an opportunity to learn about its neighbors, both large and small. The games have joined such bitter enemies as North and South Korea as they walk in unison at the opening ceremonies, and Salt Lake City should take pause and burst the bubble that covers this city to peer outside for a couple weeks, welcoming the Olympic Games’ next runner: Torino.