Carrying the Olympic Torch at Arches National Park
by David Purcell
Excerpts from Arches National Park Administrative History, draft version
Utah hosted the 2002 Winter Olympic Games February 8-24, 2002, but preparations began as early as 1996. Most of the events were held in the mountains around Park City, with visitors and athletes housed in Salt Lake City. Every modern Olympiad begins with a relay from the historic Olympic stadium in Greece to the modern stadium in the host country.1 The route of the Olympic torch procession from Greece to Salt Lake City traversed Arches National Park, passing directly beneath Delicate Arch, the first place within the state that the torch was carried.2
The 2002 relay began November 19, 2001, and covered 368 km and 8 nautical miles with 41 torchbearers in Greece, and 21,725 km in the hands of 12,012 torchbearers in the United States, passing through 46 states, 300 towns, and five previous Olympic Games host cities.3 The torch procession also involved a total of 22 NPS units, including Arches....
...the torch procession also passed through Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks after it was unveiled in Arches. The first event involving the NPS took place...at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in Florida, with a lunch celebration across the street.
The torch run through Arches was considered the second most important location, after the entrance of the torch to the Olympic Stadium in Salt Lake.5 Consequently, the event attracted more dignitaries and media and required considerable planning and logistics on the part of Arches National Park and many other organizations. The unveiling of the torch at Delicate Arch was to be performed on live worldwide television as the sun rose above the La Sal Mountains to the east.6 To “pre run” the filming, which involved a helicopter and cameras on the ground, the Moab Test Run was staged September 19-20, 2001.7 The test involved a film crew of 12, five torch bearers, one cyclist, three porters, one park ranger, and a representative of the Visitor’s Bureau. Because the test took place prior to the signing of the Special Use Permit, a separate Special Use Permit and Commercial Filming Permit were required. The test, as for the actual torch run, involved flying the torch from Monticello to Moab.
On February 4, 2002, the Olympic torch was “unveiled” at Delicate Arch, where it was blessed by Frank B. Arrowchis, Northern Ute tribal elder, performing the Northern Ute sunrise ceremony as the morning sun first touched the La Sal Mountains.12 ... The morning was bright and cold (12 degrees F) and the sun illuminated the remaining patches of snow lying on the slickrock.13 Lakota flute player Nagi Nupa performed during the ceremony, accompanied by a raven and a circling news helicopter. Arrowchis’ granddaughter Stephanie LaRee Spann, ... the first torch bearer in Utah, then began the torch run along the Delicate Arch Trail, witnessed by more than 400 spectators. To reach the viewing area in the lower bowl below Delicate Arch, many left home as early as 3:30 am, and began to hike at 5:30, guided by flashlights and glowsticks lining the trail. A total of eight torch bearers conveyed the flame to the trailhead. Once at the Wolfe Ranch parking lot, the torch was driven to the Windows where the run resumed around the Windows, before being driven out to Balanced Rock.14
The dramatic sunrise introduction of the torch required the NPS to close the Delicate Arch viewing area, upper bowl, part of the lower bowl, and Delicate Arch Road (from the main park drive) from half an hour after sunset on February 3 until 10 am on February 4 to the general public and private vehicles.16 Windows Road (from the main park drive), the scenic drive and the visitor center parking lot also were subjected to closures or restrictions on February 4 under authority of 36 CFR 1.5. Overall, 150 NPS personnel were involved in the event.17 These included not only employees of the Southeast Utah Group, but Intermountain Region and the Washington Office; the IMR Type I All Risk Management Team provided management for NPS resources involved with the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.18 The Salt Lake Olympic Committee, under the direction of Mitt Romney, planned the Olympic events to the minute, using a massive spreadsheet that utilized information from the “pre run” tests.19 Local organizations were also heavily involved in the planning and execution of the torch relay in Moab, with the Moab Chamber of Commerce and Moab Travel Council organizing a shuttle bus service to viewpoints in Arches National Park, and in Moab, Moab 2002 organized various events along the relay route.20
From Balanced Rock, the torch was carried by four different riders on bicycles along the park scenic drive to the Arches Visitor Center then along U.S. 191 and into Moab.... Three of the torchbearers were NPS employees: Arches Ranger Gary Haynes (who was selected for his role in organizing the event)..., and Natalie Hettman (Arches) and Dan Greenblatt (Canyonlands) who were nominated by their co-workers.15 At the Moab City limits, the torch was returned to the runners, who carried it through town. From Moab, the torch was flown to Monument Valley Tribal Park. The use of aircraft and automobiles to carry the torch allowed the torch to appear in as many communities and locations as possible, but also facilitated the filming and broadcast schedule of NBC.
NPS Director Fran Mainella attended the ceremony at Delicate Arch, meeting the NPS torch bearers early in the morning before the relay at the Arches Visitor Center, and again afterward at the Moab BLM office with Arches Superintendent Jerry Banta and the torch bearers for a ceremony commemorating their participation.... After leaving Arches, many of the NPS personnel (representing 70 units) relocated to Salt Lake City, where they provided security and visitor support for the duration of the Olympiad, including torch bearer Dan Greenblatt.21 Park rangers were selected by the U.S. Secret Service, specifically for their backcounty skills and ability to interface with visitors from around the world.22
2 J. Rockford Smith, Letter of Determination, Temporary Closures and Limitations to Public Access, Arches National
Park. Undated. The Olympic Torch Relay Event Collection, ARCH 236/002-025, SEUG Archives.
3 Olympic Studies Centre, Torches and Torch Relays of the Olympic Winter Games from Oslo 1952 to Sochi 2014, p.
58. (Electronic document Studies_centre@olympic.org, viewed September 15, 2014).
5 Smith, Ibid.
6 Gary Haynes, Incident Action Plan: Torch Relay Command, February 4, 2002, Moab, UT. ARCH 236/002-002, SEUG
7 Anonymous, Moab Test Event 9/19-20. ARCH 236/00 2-026, SEUG Archives.
12 Dennis Romboy, “A monumental day,” Deseret News, February 4, 2002. ARCH 236/002-035, SEUG Archives.
13 Bob Ward, ”Sun and red rock welcomes arrival,” Standard –Examiner Capital Bureau, February 5, 2002. ARCH
236/002-0 35, SEUG Archives.
14 Haynes, Ibid.
15 Dan Greenblatt, Lighting the fire within: The world watches as America hosts the Winter Olympics. Park Service
personnel play key role. Ranger, The Journal of the Association of National Park Rangers, vol. XVIII, No. 3 – Summer
16 J. Rockford Smith, Notice to the Public: Temporary Closures and Limitations to Public Access, Arches National
Park. January 22, 2002. ARCH 236/002-025, SEUG Archives.
17 Division of Ranger Activities, Washington Office, National Park Service, NPS Morning Report – Wednesday,
February 6, 2002. ARCH 236/002-031, SEUG Archives.
18 Haynes, Ibid.
19 Salt Lake Olympic Committee, Spreadsheet: Day 61, Monday February 2, 2002, Region 5. December 2, 2001.
ARCH 236/002-030, SEUG Archives.
20 Haynes, Ibid.
21 Greenblatt, Ibid.
22 Kevin Moses, Commissioned NPS rangers help Olympics stay safe. Ranger, The Journal of the Association of
National Park Rangers, vol. XVIII, No. 3 – Summer 2002.
Last updated: February 14, 2018