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Nearly 20 years later, study examines Olympic impacts on Park City community

American bobsledders Justin Olsen and John Napier test BMW's two-man bobsled prototype in the Utah Olympic Park in 2012.
American bobsledders Justin Olsen and John Napier test BMW's two-man bobsled prototype in the Utah Olympic Park in 2012.

A recent study on the impacts of hosting the Olympics offers data on how Park City has grown as a sports community since the 2002 games.

Local recreation groups partnered with Utah State University sport and families researcher Travis Dorsch to explore the question, “What’s Our Olympic Legacy?” It examines Park City’s post-Olympic efforts to optimize youth sport programming and participation.

Subjects were athletes, coaches, parents and administrators of all ages who were involved with various Park City sports, from soccer to alpine skiing to luge.

Three legacies they described as most influential were in community culture, athletic infrastructure and accessibility to participation.

A co-author of the study said while most results weren’t particularly surprising, they added context to how athletics distinguish the Park City community.

“Part of the conclusion was this study was how unique and great this community is, where we have kids that participate together at a young age," said Tate Shaw, assistant Park City Recreation manager. "Some do continue on to an elite level, maybe going to represent Park City in an Olympic stage. That being the case, we have kids that participate with these same kids all throughout and become lifelong friends. Sport is about lifelong sport, and it’s also about lifelong connections, and I think the study talks to that.”

Other community-related findings highlighted the important roles parents and teammates play in young athletes’ lives.

As for having world-class venues for extreme sports in town, a key to Park City is that places like Olympic Park have been maintained and enhanced since then. The study credits the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation for giving support there.

Subjects suggested the variety in local facilities offer a distinct opportunity in enabling kids to try out many activities while young, without having to focus on just one.

The same section also says many have difficulty advancing from recreational to elite levels of participation. It reasons part of this is due to higher costs associated with training and competing at higher levels of competition.

Another co-author, Utah Olympic Park Sport Program Manager Matt Terwillegar, identifies diversity as a factor in the research.

“We’re really talking, predominantly, winter sports that don’t have a lot of diversity," he said. "There are some community members in town that are really pushing, and I think a lot of the programs are looking at, ‘How do we make our sport programs more reflective of our community?’ I think there are some things that came out from the periphery that the games did bring to the community. It’s something that’s going to take time.”

The study has been accepted into the Journal of Olympic Studies and was officially published in September. Along with Dorsch, Terwillegar and Shaw, other co-authors are Matthew Vierimaa of Acadia University and Julian Coffman of the Park City Sport and Wellness Coalition.

For the full 26-page document, visit parkcity.org.

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