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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 14:18 GMT

Guide to Salt Lake City

BBC Sport Online's Mike Burnett offers the essential rundown to the venue of the 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City could not be further from previous Winter Olympics venue Nagano in Japan, both geographically and spiritually.

For this is Mormon country in the heart of the American west.

From the time that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, led by Brigham Young, founded the city in 1847, it was clear that this place was going to be a little different.

Over 150 years on, it has become a bustling American city, but the powerful influence of Mormonism still sets it apart from the rest.

Salt Lake City factfile
Population: 170,000
Location: In the US state of Utah, which is between Nevada and Colorado in the west.
Climate: Freezing temperatures and snow in the mountains in winter; hot and dry in summer.
Geography: Located between the Wasatch mountains and the arid Great Salt Lake Desert.
Interesting fact: It is the Mormon capital of the world.

Now Salt Lake City accommodates approximately 170,000 people and as many as 40% of the inhabitants choose to practice another religion.

The city itself is situated in the north of Utah, which is snuggled between the US states of Nevada and Colorado.

It is named after the large blue lake it sits on, a body of water that is eight times saltier than the average ocean, making it inhospitable to all but the brine shrimp.

The surrounding terrain is just as unfriendly with the city nestled between the Wasatch Mountains and the arid Great Salt Lake Desert.

While the summers tend to be hot and dry, the winters can be freezing, attracting vast numbers of visitors who are keen to try out various winter sports on the powdery snow in the mountains.

In the last 40 years, the city has witnessed a rise to national prominence of the Utah Jazz professional basketball team and of cultural institutions such as the Utah Symphony and Ballet West.

But many will know Salt Lake City for its booming service industry that caters for an endless supply of conferences and conventions held there all year round.

Divided we stand

It could almost be described as a tale of two cities as a settlement which started off as the Mormon's Utopian dream got to grips with demands of modern society.

Unlike other pioneers in the early days of America, the Mormons were a well-organised group, who considered themselves on a mission from God.

Salt Lake City was their model society in the wilderness, called the Kingdom of God on Earth by followers, and was a grand experiment in centralised planning.

Naturally, as the population has grown and become more diverse over the years, the Mormons have had to relinquish much of their control over the city.

Although many of the old ways no longer exist, there is still a feeling that this is not a typical American city.

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