Salt Lake City is the largest city to host the Olympic Winter Games. The world's most prestigious event was years in the making. The athletes have trained, the venues and facilities have been built and the detailed logistics, such as the public transportation, have been planned. During this long, arduous journey, it almost feels like Utah has held its breath in anticipation for the day when it can show this beautiful state to the world.
Reward for all the hard work, dedication and determination, not only by the athletes but also the organizers and Utah's residents comes down to 17 days for the Games in February and 10 days for the 2002 Paralympic Winter Games in March. When the torch enters Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony, all in this great state will certainly breathe a collective sigh of relief.
But before we can breathe easy again and cheer on the athletes, there is still work to be done. The world will be watching in person or from their living rooms. They'll see amazing athletic feats, stunning venues, thrilling cultural events and much more.
What we don't want the world to see is miles of traffic on television or experience streets so clogged with cars that ticket holders miss the spectacular moments of the Games or the natural beauty of Utah.
All the transportation planning by the Utah Department of Transportation, Salt Lake Organizing Committee, Utah Transit Authority and many others will not matter if our people don't do their part.
Whether you're planning to attend an event, volunteer at venues or go on about your daily life of working, shopping, shuttling the kids and other activities, you can take action now to make sure your life doesn't get stuck in traffic.
With an estimated 174,000 daily spectators to attend 140 ticketed events at 10 competition venues spread from Ogden to Provo and Kearns to Heber City, travel in and around northern Utah could rival the worst traffic in any major city in the United States.
It's imperative you "Know Before You Go," because travel during the Games may result in triple or quadruple normal travel times.
If Utahns take the time to plan, they will discover great public transportation services available to them during the Games. SLOC will operate the Mountain Venue Express for Olympic ticket holders traveling to mountain venues. The price for this round-trip service recently dropped to $5 per person.
UTA will also expand service on key regular bus routes and TRAX light rail. The best transportation option for many people traveling downtown for Olympic events will be to catch a shuttle bus from one of several park-and-ride lots in the Salt Lake Valley. It's also a great time to try carpooling.
Don't wait until you're sitting in traffic on Feb. 8 to begin making your travel "game plan." Do it now, before you're late for work or picking up your kids. Free information to help you is available in the official Olympic Transportation Guide available at Smith's Food and Drug Store or by visiting www.utahcommuterlink.com. For information on current road conditions during the Games, use Utah's free 511 travel information hotline.
The success of the Games depends in large part on the impressions made in the streets before and after the competitions, as well as on the mountain courses and in the sports arenas. It will take a huge team effort to make transportation a success during the Games, and each Utahn plays a major role on this team.
Every Utahn I know will do his or her part to help bring home the gold medal for Utah. "Know Before You Go."
Lane Beattie is the chief Olympic officer for the state of Utah.