Barber: Treatment of Hoberman Arch Displays Irresponsible Handling of Olympic Legacy



By Shaelyn Barber

The geometric petals of the Hoberman Arch slowly begin to move. Glowing with vibrant gold, purple and sapphire hues, the structure’s central circle expands to reveal the medals stage.

I was six when the Olympics came to Salt Lake City. My parents took me to see a parade downtown where they displayed the glorious puppets used in the opening ceremony. I have faint memories of the creatures flouncing down the street, but that’s all — the world-class athletic events, stunning ceremonies and international tourists have all but vanished from my mind.

My fading memories are mirrored by the fading legacy of the Olympics in Salt Lake City. Under an apathetic city government, remnants of the games have waned and disappeared.

The Hoberman Arch was removed from Rice-Eccles Stadium the very same year I began my education at the University of Utah. I used to drive past my future school and gaze at the magnificent structure. Then, one day, it was gone. I haven’t seen it since.

I was appalled when I learned what became of the illustrious arch. The spectacular sculpture that once awed the world now sits broken after years of neglect.

An article by my colleagues at The Daily Utah Chronicle gives a detailed report of what happened to the once-famed arch, but I’ll provide a brief summary. After the Olympics, the University of Utah signed a six-year contract to house the arch, but it was left for five additional years. In 2014, the city finally took it back — only to place it in an open-air impound lot where 29 pieces were stolen. After years of promises by two separate mayors and their respective governments, the arch still lays in disrepair in a storage area closed to the public.

There is no excuse for the way the Hoberman Arch situation has been handled. In fact, Salt Lake City’s government has arguably magnified the problem through their own actions — or lack thereof.

The U only agreed to a short time hosting the arch and went above and beyond in its duties by allowing the sculpture to remain even after the contract expired. The city was undoubtedly aware of the limited contract, but failed to make future arrangements for the arch’s placement.

When the arch was returned to the city, their lack of preparation exacerbated the problem. Instead of installing the arch in a permanent location straight away, they wasted $116,000 to move it to an insecure location.

The temporary storage location was poorly protected, allowing valuable pieces of the arch to be stolen, further amplifying the cost of restoring the arch.

Now, even after years of unfulfilled promises, Salt Lake City has yet to repair the arch or find it a resting place where the public can observe its exquisite beauty.

Not only has the city grossly failed in its duty to preserve and protect the Olympic legacy, but it has compounded the issues with the arch’s relocation through neglect and ill-preparedness.

Even as our city seeks an Olympic bid for 2030, we display shockingly poor management of the legacy left to us in 2002. With such indifference to our past Olympic ventures, it is hard to believe that Salt Lake will prove a suitable candidate city.

My memories of the tangible aspects may have vanished, but I can never forget the feelings the Olympics gave me. Salt Lake City was the gem of the nation. We were seen by the whole earth. I was proud because I knew that my home state had given the world something it would remember forever.

It seems that our own city is the first to forget.

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