Pioneer-Style Entrance For Torch

The Olympic torch entered Salt Lake City on Thursday the same way the Mormon pioneers did 155 years ago - aboard a covered wagon.

It took more than three decades, 13,500 miles and a bribery scandal, but the torch finally made it into town a day before the start of the Winter Olympics, rolling down Emigration Canyon with the Salt Lake valley below.

Thousands of spectators cheered as a runner jumped out of the wagon and ran toward a small stage, where a brief speech was made by an actor portraying Brigham Young.

Young led the Mormons to Salt Lake City from Illinois in 1847.

The torch then worked its way to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in downtown Salt Lake City, where church president Gordon B. Hinckley briefly hoisted it into the air while thousands of followers cheered.

"To everyone we extend our gratitude and best wishes," the 91-year-old church leader said before handing the flame off to church official Neal A. Maxwell, a leukemia survivor. "Let this be a great and wonderful and historic occasion for everyone who joins us here."

The torch ended the day's run at Washington Square, where Mayor Rocky Anderson said, "The Olympic flame has never burned brighter than in the warm soul of Salt Lake City."

The final carrier was wheelchair-bound Paralympic Alpine skier Chris Waddell of Jeremy Ranch, Utah, who used it to light a cauldron.

Other torch bearers on the final leg included former Olympic skiers Steve and Phil Mahre, figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and Utah Jazz guard John Stockton.

Earlier, the torch passed through the Olympic village and by the Utah Capitol.

Utah civic leaders first began trying to land the Winter Games in the mid-1960s, and finally convinced the International Olympic Committee to award them the games in 1995.

That victory later was found to have been partially secured with more than $1 million in gifts, scholarships and cash to a handful of IOC members.

Friday night, the flame is to be carried into Rice-Eccles Stadium during the opening ceremony to light the Olympic cauldron, signifying the start of the games. The final torchbearer remains a secret.

When it's over, about 11,500 people will have carried the torch through 46 states since it began its U.S. relay in Atlanta on Dec. 4.

Earlier Thursday, runners carried the Olympic torch past skiing venues in the Wasatch Mountains as it headed to its final destination.

The torch left the northern Utah city of Ogden at dawn, on its way to the mountains and Park City area. Families lined the street in Midway, home of the cross-country skiing venue, and waved flags and cheered as the torch ran toward downtown.

Alan Truitt, 37, was the first runner to carry the torch in Midway. Truitt, who's on the board of directors of Big Brothers and Big Sisters, ran his two-tenths of a mile before passing the flame and getting swarmed by a dozen family and friends.

"It was incredibly exhilarating, a tremendourush," Truitt said. "I had a great feeling of pride."

The flame took a slow four-mile run from Soldier Hollow to Heber in a cauldron aboard the Heber Creeper, an old coal-fired train. About 800 people gathered at the train station to greet the flame.

The torch was driven to Park City, home to slalom skiing and snowboarding events. Thousands of people - many in ski gear - crowded Main Street as the torch came to the historic silver mining town.

Kelly Milligan, a member of the 1984 U.S. cross-country ski team, ran the torch Thursday afternoon before passing it to her older sister.

"Honestly, I was really self-conscious. I didn't fall, break the torch or singe my hair," she said, laughing.

By Catherine S. Blake © MMII The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed


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