Background to the Games

This was Salt Lake City’s fifth bid for the Winter Olympics. The vote on where to hold the 2002 Winter Olympics was held on 16th June 1995 at the 104th session of the International Olympics Committee in Hungary. The vote itself would later be marred by controversy after allegations of bribery arose, involving the Salt Lake Organising Committee (SLOC), who were accused of giving gifts to several members of the IOC. Several IOC members would later be expelled from the organisation, and new rules would come into effect to combat future corruption. Despite the controversy, Salt Lake City would go on to win its bid overwhelmingly against the other candidates after just one round of voting. The Salt Lake Organising Committee was also the first to combine its Olympic and Paralympics into one organisation, following the practice of 'one bid, one city', keeping both the Olympic and Paralympic Games in one host city. In 2001, the IOC and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) would sign an agreement ensuring that any bids for a future Summer or Winter Olympics must also host the Paralympics.

The United States runs both its Olympic and Paralympic teams through the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), founded in 1895, although the Paralympics side of the Committee would not be fully integrated until 2001, with the founding of US Paralympics. Spurred on by the popularity of the Winter Olympics, public interest soared, with the demand for tickets being so great that the total number made available was increased from 225,000 to 248,000.

The build-up to the Games



The logo took the three colours, Blue, Green, and Red, which made up the colours for the Paralympics symbol, representing the most commonly used colours in flags across the world. The logo itself is simplistic in its design, with two dashed lines representing the fluid movement of a completing athlete, with the red sphere being their head, as well as a simple representation of the global reach and unity of the Paralympic Games. The three Tae Gueks below represent the Paralympics logo that was being used at the time; this would be updated in 2004 to the logo that is used currently.



Changes to Events

Ice sledge racing was not included in the programme.


  • Rice-Eccles Stadium
    The Rice-Eccles stadium, the largest outdoor stadium within Salt Lake City, was intended to be renovated to be used as the main stadium; however, financial difficulties prevented this from happening, although it was used as the stage for the opening ceremony.
  • 2002 Olympic Medals Plaza
    One of the temporary venues built for the duration of both the Paralympics and Olympics, the Olympic Medals Plaza, was located within the Olympic square. It served as the location for the closing ceremony of the Paralympics on March 16th, 2002. The centrepiece was the Hoberman Arch, designed by renowned designer Chuck Hoberman, most known for his Hoberman Sphere folding toy. This arch would later be moved to the 2002 Olympic Cauldron Park after the completion of the Paralympics, where it would remain on display until 2014.
    Spectator capacity – 20,000, 9,000 in the stands and 11,000 in the standing areas.
    Used for – closing ceremony.
  • Snowbasin Resort, Weber County
    Opened in 1939, the resort is one of the oldest continually operating ski resorts in the United States. The resort has a large stadium built at the foot of the hill, as well as two terraces for standing spectators along both sides of the run. Prior to the Olympics and Paralympics, Snowbasin also hosted multiple 'test' events, in order to see how smoothly it could run, its capacity, and the effectiveness of the Snowbasin Incident Command Team (ICT) which managed the events. One of these events was the 2000 Disabled World Cup.
    Spectator capacity – 22,500 for each event.
    Used for – alpine skiing.
  • Soldier Hollow, Wasatch County
    Soldier Hollow venue at the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Paralympics
    ©Ian Brittain
    Located 53 miles south east for Salt Lake City, Soldier Hollow was one of only three venues developed by the SLOC for use at the Winter Olympics and Paralympics. Prior to the redevelopment, the area was primarily left as a nature reserve, with other areas designated for agriculture. Due to the large distance from Salt Lake City, organisers also incorporated events and experiences into the venue building to entertain spectators.
    Spectator capacity – 64,160 for biathlon, 99,320 for cross-country.
    Used for - biathlon and cross-country.
  • E Center, West Valley City
    The E Center, today known as the Maverick Center, was an area built in 1997, used as a multi-purpose arena hosting sports, concerts and other entertainment events. After the successful bid to host the 2002 Games the SLOC agreed to loan West Valley City $7million in order to build the stadiums which would be used for the Games, as well as other events.
    Spectator capacity - 12,000.
    Used for – ice sledge hockey.

MascotIllustration of the mascot, Otto the Otter, for the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Paralympics

Illustration of the Paralympic mascot, Otto the Otter ©IPC

Otto the otter, named after the Latin word for eight, as these were the eighth Winter Paralympics, was unveiled by the Salt Lake Organising Committee during the 500 days run up to the Games. An otter was chosen for several reasons; one of the most notable being that whilst Otters had been driven to near extinction in the 20th Century, they were successfully reintroduced in 1990 and now thrive, symbolising that one can achieve success even after a major setback. Native American communities also revered Otters, seeing them as being lucky, as well as a symbol of loyalty and honesty.

The Paralympic Flame

The Torch for the Paralympics used the same design created by Scott Given and Matt Manes of Axiom design for the Olympics, manufactured by the Coleman Company and designed to have the appearance of an icicle. The top of the torch was made of glass, with a copper structure to hold the flame, copper being an important natural element found in Utah. This was also the first Torch to be translucent, and, in order to create the image of a melting icicle, had small jets of water spraying down the middle of the bowl.

The flame was carried by 100 runners throughout Utah, stopping at local landmarks in cities and national parks, including ones to display the spirit of the Paralympics, such as the All Abilities Play Park, a playground designed to be accessible to numerous children with varying abilities.

The opening ceremony

Opening ceremony at the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Paralympics

©Ian Brittain

The opening Ceremony took place on the 7th March 2002 in the Rice Eccles Stadium, which also hosted the opening and closing ceremonies for the Winter Olympics but did not actually host any events. 40,000 spectators watched the ceremony in the stadium. Officially opened by the President George W Bush through a video message. The ceremony was based on the theme 'Awaken the Mind- Free the Body- Inspire the Spirit', with performances from Stevie Wonder, Donnie Osmond, and Winona Ryder.

American Eric Weihenmayer, the first blind man to have ever reached the summit of Mount Everest, in May 2001, carried the torch from the stadium floor to the podium where it was then handed to Team USA athletes Marianna Davis and Chris Waddell, who then lit the cauldron together.

During the Games

Alpine skier competing at the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Paralympics

Alpine skier ©IPC

There was a total of 415 athletes representing 36 nations competing in the events; whilst the total number of participants had dropped from the 1998 Games in Nagano, the number of countries had increased, with China, Croatia, Chile, Andorra, Greece, and Hungary competing in a Winter Paralympics for the first time.

There were 97 doping tests run during the Games, resulting in a positive test result for German Skier Thomas Oelsner; this has been the only positive test at a Winter Paralympics to date.

Due to the distance between Salt Lake City and some of the venues, such as Winter Hollow, which was a 2 1/2 hour drive, the organisers tried to improve the spectator experience by adding entertainment into the venue centre, in order to keep the spectators occupied between events. Winter Hollow was also functioning as a nature reserve so an agreement was made between the SLOC and the Heber Valley Railroad to transport spectators to the venue, in order to cut down the traffic that would have otherwise disturbed the local wildlife and damaged the environment. A unique station was built along the tracks near the venue, with around 2 to 4 trains carrying 200 passengers each day. Spectators would then disembark at the station to proceed to the venue by a horse-drawn carriage. Not only would this reduce the traffic of buses travelling each day, but also heightened the spectator experience through travelling on a steam train and then by carriage through the snow.

Accommodation for athletes was provided at the Olympic village, which had also been used for the Olympics, again signalling the effectiveness of the SLOC’s decision to merge its Olympics and Paralympics teams together for planning. The village hosted the athletes, coaches, and other officials, and was divided into two zones; Residential and International. The residential zone was for athletes and coaches only, with the occasional invited guest. The International zone however, was open to the public and media, as well as the location of many of the amenities, such as dining, fitness centres, internet providers, a bank, laundry, mail, and other features that athletes would need during their stay.

The Medals

Gold medal for the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Paralympics Gold medal for the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Paralympics

Gold medal for cross country ©Ian Brittain

The medals display the Games logo, as well as the Slogan 'Mind-Body-Spirit' lining the top.

Medal statistics

The GB team, consisting of just two male athletes, did not take home any of the 276 medals awarded.

Prominent British Paralympic athletes

Unfortunately, despite 20 athletes participating in the previous Nagano 1998 Winter Paralympics, the team for Great Britain at the 2002 Games consisted of just two athletes, Russell Docker and Stephen Napier. Perhaps put off after the lack of success at previous Games, the Winter Paralympics GB team was provided only £1,500 in funding, compared to £4million that their able-bodied counterparts received for the Winter Olympics.

  • Russell Docker
    After a skiing accident in 1995 left Docker paralysed from the waist down, he returned to skiing using a mono ski. Having finished fourth place in the Super-G at the US nationals in March 2001, Salt Lake 2002 was his first Paralympic Winter Games, where he participated in four events of the LW12 classification.  Unfortunately, he crashed out during his first event, the downhill, and was unable to compete in his other three.
  • Stephen Napier
    Napier, who was left disabled after an unmarked police car struck him on his motorcycle, also competed in the alpine skiing, under the LW10 classification, having previously competed in the Grand Slalom at Kartnen in April 2001, finishing 11th place. He managed to complete each event, with his best result being sixth in the Super-G LW10, a result he was pleased with.

Media coverage at the event

836 media representatives reported from the Games, including written press, newscasting, photography, and more than 30 broadcasters from across the globe. NBC, who televised the events in the United States, had their own studio stationed in the Olympic Medal Plaza, within the Olympic park. Like the Olympics, all events were broadcast live, after negotiations to improve the coverage from what was previously only going to be 30 minute highlight package for international audiences.

However, despite a higher number of media representatives, coverage from certain outlets in the USA was still abysmal compared to coverage of the Olympics. For example, from the 1st February to the 18th March 2002, the New York Times posted 611 articles regarding the Olympics, but only 5 regarding the Paralympics, despite them being hosted in the USA.

The closing ceremony

The closing ceremony was held at the Olympic Medal Plaza, with 20,000 spectators watching. Marianna Davis and Chris Wadell, the Team USA athletes who had previously lit the cauldron, thanked the many volunteers in their speech. Special awards were given to Norwegian Eskil Jagen and Canadian Lauren Woolstencroft, who both received the Whang Youn Dai Overcome prize for their performances in Ice Sledge Hockey and Alpine Skiing respectively. Named after Dr Whang Youn Dai, a campaigner for people with disabilities for more than 50 years, the prize has been awarded since the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games to inspire people with and without disabilities to achieve excellence in sports and in life.

The Mayor of Torino, Italy, the hosts of the next Winter Paralympics in 2006, was handed the Paralympic flag. Musician Gregory Smith, known for his works composing firework shows at Disney Resorts, composed the 45 minutes of music for the ceremony; his music was also used at the opening ceremony. Other music was provided by R&B singer Pattie Labelle, before the extinguishing of the flame cauldron and a fireworks display, signalling the end of the Games.


  • Ian Brittain, From Stoke Mandeville to Sochi: A History of The Summer And Winter Paralympic Games. Common Ground Publishing