ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, Utah – A wait of more than three decades ended at sunrise Monday when the Olympic flame, destined for Salt Lake City, began its homestretch run toward the start of the 2002 Winter Games.
Runner Frank B. Arrowchis, a member of the Northern Ute Tribe, took the flame through the Delicate Arch, a natural sandstone arch that is one of Utah's most enduring natural symbols. He and his granddaughter, Stephanie Laree Spann, blessed the torch with an eagle wing.
About 200 people watched the ceremony, including Gov. Mike Leavitt, who was visiting the Delicate Arch for the first time in his life.
"It's just such a fitting way to begin the run," said Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney. He called the visit of the torch to the arch "the perfect confluence of two enduring symbols."
Arrowchis began the ceremony as the first rays of sun hit the snow atop the La Sal Mountains to the southeast. A crow perched on a boulder cawed loudly at the dignitaries, probably used to having the arch to itself on a winter morning.
A team of runners was to take the torch to Moab, about five miles away. It also will visit Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park and will arrive in Salt Lake City on Thursday.
The 17-day games begin Friday, when the torch will be used to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony. The identity of the final torch carrier has been kept a secret.
The torch relay began Dec. 4 in Atlanta — the last U.S. city to hold the Olympics, in 1996. In all, the torch took a 13,500-mile journey — part by car, boat or air, part carried by ceremonial runners — and visited 46 states.
Olympic organizers drove the torch to Moab on Sunday from Grand Junction, Colo. Early Monday, it was driven into the park and then carried the mile and a half to the arch.
For Salt Lake City, the games are the culmination of an effort that began in the mid-1960s, when a group of civic leaders first began lobbying for it. Salt Lake City finally won them in 1995, though that bid subsequently was tainted by a bribery scandal.