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Features Saturday, 9 February, 2002, 08:06 GMT
Games get patriotic welcome
The 1980 Olympic winning ice hockey team light the Olympic flame
The heroes of 1980 came as quite a surprise
BBC Sport Online's Alex Gubbay watches the Olympic opening ceremony from the comfort of a downtown bar.

Given the choice between spending US$800 to sit in the freezing cold, and US$10 to spend the night in one of Salt Lake City's 'drinking dens', you can guess where your man in Utah ended up watching the opening ceremony.

But the patrons at Port O' Call wanted to be just as involved in the lavish spectacle as those who had forked out to be part of the 52,000 crowd at the Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium.

Hushed silence
Punters gaze up at President Bush on television
President Bush grabbed the attention

Friday night is apparently always busy at the private club, but there were definitely more souls out early in the evening to get within eyesight of its 40 or so television screens.

They watched closely early on, and as one, stood with hands across hearts in hushed silence as President George W Bush, and then the tattered Ground Zero flag, entered the Olympic arena.

Ricardo, a Mexican French Indian who has lived in Salt Lake City for several years, took off his cap and openly shed a tear as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir proudly recited the Star Spangled Banner.

"That was a beautiful moment," he said. "I just feel so proud right now."

Ricardo respects the moment
Ricardo was overwhelmed - at the start
I too was genuinely moved by the way everything in the bar just suddenly stopped.

People in the queue outside were equally respectful as they peered through the windows to catch a glimpse of the proceedings.

But as swiftly as everyone had paused to honour the victims of 11 September, so the throng resumed their drinking when the Parade of Nations began.

There were isolated cheers for various nations, and Mike Dixon's entry to the arena as the flag bearer for Great Britain was certainly well received.

But by and large, the Port O' Call crowd's focus wandered thereafter, and not even Sting, LeAnn Rimes or the Dixie Chicks could hold them.

Indeed, there were only two more moments that truly recaptured their attention.

Burning question

Wolf whistles by patriotic drinkers greeted the arrival of the US team
Wolf whistles greeted the arrival of the US team
They were a trail for the film ET on American channel NBC, and of course, the anticipation of who would actually light the stadium torch.

"It's just gotta be Rudi," was the widespread opinion, referring to ex-New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

In the event, people around me were slightly non-plussed when US ice hockey captain Mike Eruzione emerged to undertake the honour.

But they duly clapped, whooped and whistled for the 25 seconds it took for the flames to climb up the torch and fireworks to light up the Salt Lake City skies.

Most declared themselves ready to savour 16 days of winter sport in their city.

But with thick snowflakes beginning to settle on the streets, they were all happy enough to stay out of the cold for just a few more hours.

Steve Ryder
tries to get a drink in Salt Lake City
Donny Osmond
chats with Sue Barker about the Games
BBC Sport Online's Alex Gubbay

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