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Another Olympic opportunity

Kindness and generosity are two traits associated with residents of Utah.

The 2002 Winter Olympic Games is providing a lot of opportunities to enhance that reputation.

One of those opportunities involves hosting as many as 1,000 visiting relatives of athletes who are coming to compete in the Games.

Olympic organizers hope to identify families that are willing to house, feed and transport those relatives — for free. The request epitomizes the highest ideals of the Olympic spirit.

It's part of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's "Athlete Family Homestay Program." In announcing it, SLOC President Mitt Romney noted that the program is "an excellent way for Utah families to get involved" with the 2002 Winter Games and the Paralympics for disabled athletes that follow.

Those selected will be expected to provide free lodging and breakfast for two or more members of an athlete's family for eight days. They'll need to also pick up their visitors when they arrive in Salt Lake City and help them with public transportation.

Language, diet and cultural or religious observances will also be factors when choosing host families.

Applications to be a host family will be available in April with Sept. 1 being the deadline to apply. Information regarding being a host family is available on the SLOC Web site, www.saltlake2002.com or by sending an e-mail to AFHP@saltlake2002.com">AFHP@saltlake2002.com.

Volunteers will play a large part regarding overall impressions visitors have of the Olympic Games. Their enthusiasm and hospitality will spill over into numerous Olympic-related activities.

Obviously, the television audience will see Olympic venues and Utah's natural wonders, be it rock arches or pristine mountain slopes. Volunteers, though, will have the opportunity to introduce visitors to Utah's many cultural activities. They, in reality, are Utah's ambassadors to the Games. The impressions they leave will be a significant part in determining how visitors feel about the 2002 Winter Olympics.

While meeting with the Deseret News editorial board last week, Romney said one of the most pleasant surprises he's had since he took over as president of SLOC a little more than two years ago has been the very positive responses of the volunteers.

Those responding to the call to house relatives of competing athletes will doubtless validate Romney's feelings.