Olympic flame enters Utah for first time

Monday, February 4th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, Utah (AP) _ A wait of more than three decades ended at sunrise Monday when the Olympic flame, destined for Salt Lake City, crossed through the Delicate Arch and began its homestretch run toward the start of the 2002 Winter Games.

After a brief American Indian ceremony, runner Frank B. Arrowchis, a member of the Northern Ute Tribe, took the flame down the slickrock sandstone. A team of runners was to take it through this park. It was headed for Moab, about five miles away.

The flame will arrive in Salt Lake City on Thursday, after a 13,500-mile journey that saw it carried through 46 states.

The 17-day games begin Friday.

For Arrowchis, the ceremony is a chance to ask for blessings and peace.

In desert air well below freezing, Arrowchis said he would point to sweet sage to the four directions and pray for peace for all people.

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, one of Utah's most enduring natural symbols, the torch will visit Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park.

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.