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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 07:01 GMT

Medals make music at the Games

By BBC Sport Online's Alex Gubbay in Salt Lake City

You can say what you like about the Americans, and many people have at these Winter Olympics.

But they do know how to put on a good show.

The nightly medal ceremonies and accompanying entertainment at the Olympic Plaza have been one of the definite successes at the Salt Lake Games.

The likes of Nelly Furtado, Sheryl Crow and Macy Gray have played the Plaza to great acclaim.

I finally saw the spectacle for myself on Saturday night, and I didn't need to be an N'Sync fan to enjoy it either.

The Olympic Square and Plaza have drawn crowds of 30,000 virtually every night, and Saturday was no different, even though there weren't any American medallists to cheer.

For the Brits, there was new Alpine hero Alain to salute - but before Baxter, the stage had to be set, and that meant the ritual unveiling of the Salt Lake Olympic crystal, flame and podium to the 'Light the Fire Within' music.

Sadly, three weeks here have left me powerless to stop myself endlessly humming that theme, so I was in my element.

I was also slightly reassured that there were others around me doing the same - although maybe that was a sign the time has come for us all to move on!

Huge video screens relayed images of the medallists in action, and watching their achievements in slow motion somehow enhanced their prowess.

It certainly brought Baxter and his bronze to life.

As athletes from different nations trooped on and off the podium, so various little pockets in the crowd cheered their particular hero, as well as the unsung heroes who frantically wound the flags up and down during each anthem.

However, when Justin Timberlake and the rest of N'Sync stepped up to the stage, those little pockets suddenly merged into a sea of lovestruck teenagers.

Once I was sure his girlfriend, a Miss Spears, was not one of those lovestruck teenagers, I knew it was time to make for the exit.


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