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FLAME NEVER SLEEPS, BUT IT RESTS

So where does the Olympic flame spend the night during its journey across the country to the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta? Tonight, in Salt Lake City, it'll rest in a $129 deluxe room at the Holiday Inn downtown.

"We'll make sure it's one of our most spacious rooms. We wouldn't want to insult the flame" - or the Georgia State Patrol troopers assigned to guard it 24 hours a day - joked Rusty Martin, the hotel's sales manager.The flame arrived in Ogden on Thursday night from Idaho in a cauldron on a special flatbed rail car.

Olympic hopeful Teri Spiers, the Weber State University women's volleyball coach, was the first Utahn to carry it.

Spiers, who is hoping to qualify for the javelin throw at the Summer Games in Atlanta, was cheered by the crowd as she carried the torch along Ogden's 25th Street to a celebration at the intersection with Lincoln Avenue. Fireworks over Union Station culminated the first leg of the flame's trip through Utah.

Friday morning, the torch left for Salt Lake City.

After circling the valley through Sandy, Midvale, Murray and South Salt Lake, the Olympic flame is scheduled to be delivered about 10:10 p.m. to Salt Lake City's torch relay party at the Salt Lake City-County Building.

The flame stays overnight at the hotel and leaves just before 6 a.m. Saturday on a bicycle headed past the Hogle Zoo through Emigration Canyon to Echo, where it will board a train bound for Wyoming about 9:30 p.m.

All torchbearers, including 223 in Utah, are given their own torches to carry (which they can keep for $275). All torchbearers are escorted by high-school runners and by the troopers and other law-enforcement officers from Georgia. Their job is to make sure the flame gets passed from torch to torch.

Teams of troopers are in charge of keeping watch over two gold-plated lanterns lit from the fire started during a special ceremony on March 30 in Athens, Greece, the ancestral home of the Olympics.

During the 15,000-mile cross-country relay, the lanterns carrying the "mother flame," and their guards, dubbed "torpedoes," stay near the torchbearers so they can relight torches that are accidently extinguished.

At night, the troopers take turns watching over the lanterns in their hotel room to make sure nothing happens to the flame.

Atlanta's Olympic organizers know all this sounds a little silly. But they swear they're serious about sharing the Olympic flame with as many Americans as possible.

"It's kind of funny when you think about it, but we take our responsibility seriously," torch relay spokeswoman Gillian Hamburger said. "We need to deliver it in the safest possible way (and) that's going to happen."

The troopers, Hamburger said, have a duty to "uphold the sanctity of the flame," whether it's in the hands of a torchbearer, on the special Olympic-torch rail car or sitting on a table in a hotel room.

For Martin, hosting the torch at the downtown Holiday Inn is great for business - at least once the Atlanta contingent that's filling nearly half the hotel is gone and there's room for more paying customers.

"You can't put a dollar figure on that kind of publicity. We're associated with . . . motherhood and apple pie. That's the Olympics," Martin said. "You're jumping on a bandwagon that's a very positive image-building campaign."There will, however, be one problem left behind after the flame leaves.

The Holiday Inn is getting its own torch, but Martin isn't sure yet how to keep it safe. "We're struggling with how to display it because we don't have the budget to have Georgia State patrolmen guarding it," he said.

The Holiday Inn hotel chain is one of the sponsors of the Olympic torch relay, which began April 27th in Los Angeles and ends during the July 19th opening ceremonies of the Atlanta Games.

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CROSSROADS

A map of the Olympic torch route in Utah can be found in the local news section of the Deseret News' Crossroads and Web electronic editions.