By T.L. Petersen
Observer Staff Writer
The list of the best souvenirs to have gotten from the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics isnt making headlines yet.
Some things are obvious.
A medal gold, silver or bronze is obviously a first-rate souvenir. A signed autograph from any athlete isnt bad, and a piece of their equipment say a speed-skaters blades is big.
But Union County Sheriffs Deputies Jim Voelz and Dana Wright, and Wallowa County Deputy Steve Rogers have souvenirs that will be rare treasures.
The three men returned last week to Northeast Oregon with official, heavy badges proclaiming them Olympic Police Utah 2002.
Taking their own time to volunteer for the Games of the XIX Winter Olympics, the three came home with memories to last a lifetime.
The three didnt get to see many of the TV moments that American television viewers have engraved in their memories, but that doesnt matter.
They remember watching more people than live in either county pour through security entrances to Park Citys Olympic Park in less than three hours. Or patrolling the sides of the ski jumps at 4 a.m., just as athletes were beginning practice in sub-zero weather. Or joining in the closing ceremonies and trying to pick out the security snipers guarding the stands from rooftops.
The list of memories goes on and on.
The trip to the Olympics started months ago for the three men.
Voelz remembers that Wright, Union Countys undersheriff, spotted an Internet call for law enforcement volunteers from, he thinks, the Salt Lake City Olympic Organizing Committee. Wright printed out the e-mail message and posted it for other deputies to see.
Voelz, Wright and Rogers filled out applications. A few months later they heard theyd been selected.
Being an Olympic volunteer wasnt all that much of a free ride to the Games.
Before they were accepted, the three went through security checks and had to identify any specialized skills or training. Skiing, snowmobiling, wilderness search and rescue, snowshoeing all helped.
Voelz said he heard that officers used to working outside in cold weather without large amounts of direct supervision such as rural deputies from Oregon were chosen for some outdoor venues.
Rogers, Wright and Voelz were teamed with Ron Goodpasture, the Tigard police chief with whom Voelz has worked in the past, and together they worked under team leader Bruce Johnson, an officer with the Utah fish and wildlife department.
The five men worked day, swing and night shifts all through the Olympics, getting, Wright said, only one day off.
The most impressive thing to me, Wright said, was that every shift we worked there were a couple fly-overs by the Nighthawk helicopters.
Wright recalls that on one overcast night one of the helicopter crews called down wanting to know if any ground security forces had taken snowshoes into a certain area.
It turned out the fresh snowshoe tracks had been made by an IRS security officer.
For Voelz, the memories vary.
The three moose that live in the Olympic Park area are now remembered in Voelzs photographs.
From a work perspective, Voelz recalls being impressed with how law enforcement from throughout the country and from all different agencies blended into a working unit, including FBI, Secret Service, IRS, ATF agents, police, deputies, firefighters, rescue units, forestry and wildlife agents and more. At Park City, his team was technically under the jurisdiction of the Summit County Sheriffs Department.
They were really nice, and treated us really good, Voelz said.
Voelz, Wright and Rogers were given the bright yellow and black winter jackets and black snowpants that were their official uniforms, along with the badges.
Voelz noted that he doesnt remember having any problems with the weather or elevation, but Rogers wonders how they stayed warm during the night patrols. Wright admits that the minus 12-degree nighttime weather was cold.
Most of their shifts, Wright and Voelz said, were spent watching people and providing backup to the volunteers checking every person coming into the venue with magnetic detection equipment and with hand-checks of all backpacks and other packages.
Voelz remembers helping reunite a few lost children with parents, but few other problems.
Rogers recalls that the food at the venues wasnt that great. Voelz said the food was better at Westminster College in Salt Lake City where the officers were housed in dormitories.
Wright remembers the video training about riot control, and being glad it wasnt needed.
Thinking about the 23,000 people he watched line the ski jumping runs, Wright remembers wall-to-wall people and about 100 law enforcement officers scattered among the crowd.
It was amazing.
Voelz recalls the detailed security of checking every vehicle, every bag, every piece of equipment and every bit of ground.
Everybody was just really friendly, Voelz said of his Olympic experience. I dont remember any bad experiences. Just a lot of people.