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Aspen to host Olympic torch

John Colson

The Olympic torch will likely travel through Aspen on its way to the mountains outside Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

Aspen is slated to be an “Olympic Celebration City” next year, meaning the torch will come through Aspen from Vail, on its way to Grand Junction and beyond, on Feb. 2, 2002. The Aspen City Council agreed Monday to foot the bill for feeding the estimated 150 people who will accompany the torch.

City communications official Linda Gerdenich delivered a letter Monday from the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Torch Relay organizers to Mayor Rachel Richards.

“We are honored to invite Aspen to be a celebration city,” states the letter. “Our team will assist you to insure that your city’s culture, landmarks and people shine through this memorable event.”

Gerdenich said the cost of feeding the procession and providing the other services required by the organizers is estimated at between $1,200 and $1,800, which the City Council agreed could come out of the 2002 budget.

Those accompanying the torch will include a support crew for the relay, as well as various representatives of the Olympics and the relay sponsors, Coca-Cola and Chevrolet.

According to Gerdenich, the torch will leave Vail on the morning of Feb. 2, pass through Aspen in the afternoon and arrive at Grand Junction that evening.

Council member Terry Paulson wondered aloud whether there might be hidden costs associated with the event, to which Richards responded: “Of course there will be.” Council member Tom McCabe suggested the city should prepare for putting the procession participants up for the night, in case the weather turns nasty and they can’t make it to Grand Junction as planned.

The host services, according to the letter, will include law enforcement, sanitation services, location of a site for the “celebration” and “temporary building permits” for facilities to be built by the sponsors. The city also is being asked to provide insurance coverage for the event and “assistance with protecting against unauthorized or `ambush’ marketing.”

Although the route into and around Aspen has yet to be worked out, Gerdenich said it is anticipated the procession will wind through town up to the Hunter Creek and Centennial neighborhood, then back through town, “to allow the most people to be able to take part” in the celebration.

She said a local nonprofit will be called upon to help select local runners who can carry the torch.

At least one local official, Aspen Police Chief Joe Cortez, has some experience with this kind of thing.

The town of Brush, where Cortez served as police chief before coming to Aspen, hosted the Olympic Torch Relay in 1996, and Cortez himself was picked to carry the torch for a while. He has a replica of the torch hanging on the wall of his office at the Aspen Police Department.

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Posted: Tuesday, February 27, 2001


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