2002 Winter Olympics
In February 2002, Utah had the world’s attention. Salt Lake City hosted over 2,400 athletes from 78 different nations for the XIX Olympic Winter Games. While the athletes were undoubtedly the stars of the Olympic games, Utahns recognized they were welcoming the world to their home.
Utahns knew that hosting the Olympics was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There was a lot of excitement leading up to the games and more than 70,000 people applied to volunteer, although only 23,000 positions were available. A week before the games, spectators in towns across the state gathered to see runners carry the Olympic flame through their streets. Elementary school students held assemblies celebrating the Olympics’ theme, “Light the Fire Within.” Viewers watched more than 13 billion hours of television coverage. The Opening Ceremonies celebrated the history of Utah and the American West, and introduced over 2 billion households to Utah’s unique landscape.
Collecting official Olympic pins was the most popular way for everyone to join the fun. Participating countries and corporate sponsors brought countless boxes to the games to share. and collectors purchased officially licensed pins with designs unique to the host city. Some pins were produced in small numbers, making them rare to find (and expensive!). Collectors wore lanyards and hats filled with their pins, which opened up conversations with other collectors who might want to trade.
Below, you'll see a selection of Olympic pins from the collection at the Utah State Historical Society. For each pin, answer these questions:
- Describe what you see in this pin. What is its subject?
- Why do you think this subject was selected for a pin?
- Is this image unique to Utah? Why or why not?
What Do You Think?
- How was Utah presented to the rest of the world? Do you think this presentation was accurate?
- Do you see anything missing? What histories are represented here, and do you think any histories were not included?
If the Winter Olympics were held today, what would you want to share about Utah with the world? Design a pin that shares your family’s or your community’s history.
Lee Davidson, “Old Secrets Emerge: After 9/11 Attacks, 2002 Olympics Considered Banning Spectators; Many Countries Balked at Sending Athletes,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 16, 2008.
Terry Gildea, Andrea Smardon, and Dan Bammes, “Utah’s Olympic Legacy: The Impact of the 2002 Winter Games,” KUER.
“Inside the Crazy World of Olympic Pin Trading,” Wired, July 8, 2016.
Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office, “Olympics in Salt Lake City.”