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SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday evening for a cauldron relighting ceremony at Rice-Eccles Stadium, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
The ceremony had all of the enthusiasm of a pregame pep rally. New "children of light" made an appearance and Olympic medalists revved up the crowd.
But the greatest energy was the optimism that the Olympic Winter Games could return to Salt Lake in 2022.
"We've proved to the world we can do it, and do it better than anybody else. The question is: should we do it in 2022? I want to know what your feelings are on 2022?" Gov. Gary Herbert asked the crowd, who cheered loudly in response.
Earlier in the day, Herbert announced the state would form an exploratory committee to look into the venture.
Fraser Bullock, former CFO of the 2002 Winter Games said it would probably cost $2 billion or more. But he said Utah has a head start with $500 million to $1 billion worth of infrastructure already in place.
"I believe that most of (the rest), if not all, could be raised in the private sector," Bullock said. "It's possible to do these games without public money, which I think would be nice too."
The cauldron didn't light right on cue. But after a few minutes, when it finally burned brightly, it stirred many memories.
Former Salt Lake City mayor Deedee Corradini was part of the early efforts to land the games. "There isn't a day that somebody doesn't come up to me and say, ‘That was the best thing we ever did. Let's do it again,'" she said.
Former governor Mike Leavitt agreed. "It unified our state like nothing before," he said. "I don't know what will happen in the next 100 years, but it will be among the most important things that has ever occurred. There is only one thing that will top it: Utah 2022."
Event organizer Richard Bezemer said officials wanted to have the cauldron lit for all 17 days of the celebration commemorating the 2002 Winter Games. But it's in need of repair. So, instead of fire, huge spotlights will shoot a beam of light into the night sky for those 17 days.