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Features Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 16:33 GMT
Hopes pinned on Olympics
Marlene Baker displays some of her hard-earned pins
Marlene Baker shows off some of her 10,000 pins
By BBC Sport Online's Alex Gubbay in Salt Lake City

People seem friendly here in Salt Lake.

Since I arrived over the weekend, I've noticed how quickly locals and Games organisers have been to come up and ask me 'how I'm doin' today.'

And that's nice, even though for some reason, they tend to assume, as they do with most Brits, that I'm Australian.

I was OK with that - and was even prepared to play along for a while by offering the standard reply, 'I'm good', in a southern Sydney drawl.

That was until it finally dawned on me why people seem so interested.

I can feel it in the air - the city is ready to trade pins

Marlene Baker

Amazingly, it's not because of my rugged good looks, natural charm or rapier wit - it is instead because they want to know if I have any pins.

Yes, you did read that correctly.

When it comes to feverish business activity during these Games, touting Olympic tickets comes a distant second to doing deals for pin badges.

Anything from team badges to participation medals and media logos are up for grabs as traders seek to expand their Olympic collections.

But if like me, your only 'collecting' experience dates back to football stickers in the school classroom many years ago, you are not much use to anyone out here.

Marlene Baker is one such trader, and has come across from Missouri just to garner pins at the Games.

"I have at least 10,000 pins," she proudly boasts. "This my seventh Olympics, winter and summer. The only one I have missed since 1988 has been Lillehammer.

"I've collected around 45 different ones from these Games so far.

"I went up to Park City, and I can feel it in the air - the city is ready to trade pins."

There is even an official Salt Lake City pin show in a nearby mall, a mecca for those on a mission for pins.

A pin trader in action
A trader limbers up ahead of the big sell

"Our main focus was to have an official site where people could come and trade during the Games," explains Richard Murray, one of the partners running the show.

"At present, we have nine vendors, with one to two tables each, and from Friday, we intend to be open until one in the morning each night."

Late-night shoppers can rest easy.

He goes on to show me an IOC session medal he picked up in Atlanta in 1996, and wonders if there is any way I can help him in the search for a similar souvenir from the current IOC gathering taking place in town.

Sadly, I don't think I can help - but in the true 'Olympin' spirit, he hands me a pin show 'gold medal' for free.

I am touched, but still leave with the feeling my collection is never really going to get off the ground.

Relying on BBC Sport stickers to curry favour with the massed ranks on the streets is never going to work.

But at least I now know why not being from Channel 7 down under is such a great disappointment.

BBC Sport Online's Alex Gubbay

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17 Jan 02 | BBC Coverage
BBC Sport Online at the Olympics
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