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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 03:30 GMT

Close encounters of the Utah kind

BBC Sport Online's Alex Gubbay explains why he has been glancing up at the skies above Salt Lake City

Utah has made every effort to welcome the world to its Olympic party.

In the closing days, it seems Salt Lake City could be about to extend that invitation to intergalactic visitors as well.

At least that's what Victoria Liljenquist believes.

Liljenquist, from Phoenix, Arizona, is a confirmed friend to the stars, and whoever, or whatever, lives up there.

Her hotline to higher beings suggests they are planning a fly-by over the Olympics on Thursday afternoon - just in time to catch the giant slalom and curling finals.

"It's not to create fear...this is a peaceful, wonderful thing," Liljenquist told the Salt Lake Tribune.

"Our family want to come and join us," she insisted.

Are they among us?

But that extra-terrestrial family may find sporting entertainment doesn't come that easily.

For starters, they would face rigorous security screenings at each venue.

Then again, judging by some of the staff on duty, creatures with extra eyes and tentacles would probably get through unhindered...unless, of course, they had forgotten to put aside the keys to their spaceship before walking through the metal detector.

Liljenquist could of course be talking cobblers - it may be that our 'new-found friends' are in Salt Lake City already.

Consider the evidence, if you will.

We have had plenty of weird and wonderful musical acts at the medals ceremonies each night.

Flashing lights

Macy Gray was definitely spaced out when she played the Olympic Plaza last Tuesday, and Nelly Furtado always does her best to suggest she is from another planet.

Is this intergalactic activity the reason for US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld's reported visit to the Games in the next couple of days?

Salt Lake's symbolic Temple may prove not to be the work of Brigham Young and his flock after all, but merely one pod about to dock with its Mormon mother ship in outer space (or deepest Utah to you and me).

I can almost see its beautiful spires, lit up as they are in the evening, suddenly flashing come 6pm Thursday and lifting off into the skies above.

At least that sort of concrete threat would explain the no-fly zone and all those F-16 fighter jets on patrol.

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