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‘Inner fire’ brings tears and gasps, Beattie tells group

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PROVO ? Those who have attended previous Olympic Games describe the spirit of the event the way some explain a religious experience.

It's hard to understand until you feel it.

Lane Beattie, Utah's chief Olympic officer, has seen that spirit spread across the country as the Olympic torch makes its way to Utah. It's a spirit so strong that one woman he saw couldn't even run when the torch entered her hands.

Instead, Beattie said, she sat down and cried.

Beattie surprised members of the Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce Thursday at an awards fete when he pulled a torch from a FedEx box. Several members of the audience gasped in awe at the sight of the torch.

The Olympic flame will leave Omaha, Neb., this morning and finish the day in Oklahoma City. Torch runners can buy the torch they carried for $335 after completing their leg.

The torch was the highlight of Beattie's speech and seemed to have the same effect on the audience that it has had on other Americans along its route. Beattie estimated Americans have turned out to cheer this torch relay more than at previous Olympics.

"There is no more important time in the history of the world than now to help people understand our motto to light the fire within," Beattie said, holding up the torch he borrowed from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

Beattie said Utah's greatest asset during the Olympics will be its people, especially the 20,000 plus who volunteered to help.

With a worldwide audience of 3.5 billion people, Utah's people will be on display as much as its scenery and venues during the Olympics, Beattie said.

"What an opportunity," he said. "You couldn't buy that with all the money in the world."

Beattie said because of the Sept. 11attacks this Olympics will have a special significance. It is more than a sporting event, he said, it's a peace movement.

Beattie said one of the few worries Olympic organizers have at this point is getting too much snow. For most skiing events skiers prefer icy conditions over powder for speed and control.

E-MAIL: jhyde@desnews.com