Salt Lake 2002

Thomas Ballard

2002 PlayBook


The 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games

Toward the end of 2001, I experienced a layoff like so many others in Information Technology during the period known as the "dot bomb". Ironically, the timing could not have been better. While it was a depressing experience and something I wouldn't wish on anyone, it had an amazing silver lining for me.

Years earlier, when Salt Lake City was awarded the Olympic Winter Games by the IOC, I developed a genuine desire to participate in the once-in-a-lifetime experience the games would represent. During my time off, I interviewed with SLOC and was given the opportunity to work on Team 2002. I met and worked with some great folks I'll always cherish.

My team worked in the Information Services group. We proofed, printed, and published the results books for each event as they completed. We ran some pretty insane volume over the weeks we worked in the basement of SLOC headquarters. Having come from an old school brick and mortar print shop background very early in my career, I would know! It was fascinating to contrast their methodologies with those of my earlier high-school apprenticeship.

An average run consisted of eighteen-hundred books containing between seventy and three-hundred and sixty-six pages. These were run on three large Xerox printers (which performed flawlessly) then moved to one of two binding stations (the bottleneck in our system) and then on to one of two cutters and were finally boxed and distributed to approximately ten press groups for which we were publishing.

Our supervisor was Joan Junker from Xerox. She was a real trooper. She worked around the clock during the games. I was amazed at how well she held up under such pressure, and she always had a smile on her face and was always fun to talk with. (I hope Xerox treated her well, she earned it!)

Looking back years earlier, I remember when the IOC awarded the games to "...the city of Salt Lake City." I was working for ASi Advanced Systems, an SLC business started and built up by some great former NCR and IBM technicians. While I was driving to a service call at what then was a branch of Guardian State Bank, I heard the announcement made on a local AM traffic and news station. I recall cars honking and flashing lights excitedly in the minutes after the announcement and was curious how many neighboring drivers were listening to KSL (in truth it probably was broadcast on many of the local stations, news or otherwise, it was a big deal for Utah.)

I remember that moment clearly, and the desire to find a way to participate. However, being engaged in a career (all told my tour with ASi was about eight years), I could not, at the time see a way that volunteering would be feasible.

Then in 1999 I accepted a position with another Utah company called Northsky, Inc. (Which was later purchased by (NASDAQ: BOUT), then Primedia (NYSE: PRM), then United Online (NASDAQ: UNTD), but that's another story.) I worked there for a few years during the dot com boom, and watched as the carnage of the correction that was the dot bomb claimed more and more victims. Finally in late 2001 (4 days after 9/11 ironically) the axe fell on a group I was a part of. So, what to do... why help with the Salt Lake Winter Olympics of course!

At a painful time for our country, and for my family personally, the irony of suddenly having a chance to participate in supporting the Olympics was in some ways bitter sweet, but since then I've come to appreciate more keenly what an incredible stroke of luck it was, and how grateful I was to be able to answer it.

The games went very smoothly and Utah put on a truly world class presentation. It was nice to see the natural beauty of our state showcased in such a world-wide forum. I think the media was even gracious enough to help dispel some of the stigma associated with early Mormon settlement and such topics as polygamy which ended over a hundred years ago.

The Church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints (a predominant religion locally) took the position that missionary work would be low key, taking the form of answering questions, but not actively proselyting visitors. In fact the only involuntary exposure I had to religion during the games came from missionaries of other churches, having come in from out of state.

Considering all of the turmoil associated with the games after the scandal of the bid process and issues of mismanagement threatened to consume all the good represented by the games, what Utah produced was an A+ effort that came off polished and professional. Kudos to Utah and the strong service ethic that exists here. Kudos as well to Mitt Romney (who went on to become the republican governor of democratic Massachusetts -- which contains another avenue of cherished stories for me, busy, busy! If that's not a tribute to his consensus building skills, then nothing is. In fact, it's rumored that he may make a bid at the presidency, you go Mitt!)

All in all, what an incredible show! It really didn't hit me until the Closing Ceremony that the years of preparation and weeks of hard work personally were culminating, in some tiny way it must have felt like coming back from a successful bid for a moon landing (having given up on an early childhood desire to become an astronaut, that's pretty much my basis for comparison for everything ;-).

Then of course, KISS played! So Cool! I kept hoping for an encore of "Lick It Up" (guess I'll just have to settle for mp3 there). And of course what KISS lacked in "good looks", Christina Aguilera provided in spades! (She must have been pretty cold! But, wow.)

In a continuing tribute to irony, shortly after the Olympics, I was asked back under a new regime at I basically picked up where I'd left off and I've been there to the present day. But if the Olympics ever come back... what to do, what to do? (, stop contemplatively twiddling my fingers in Mr. Burns-esque fashion.)

Thomas Ballard

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