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Utah fired up as torch nears

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The Salt Lake Organizing Committee outlined Wednesday details of the route the Olympic torch relay will take through Utah with accompanying celebrations along the way.

AirMed will deliver the Olympic flame to Moab in 12 days, setting in motion what will eventually become its final ascent to the top of the angular steel-and-glass caldron at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The University of Utah patient transport airplane will make an early morning flight Feb. 4 from Grand Junction, Colo., where the non-Utah portion of the nationwide torch relay ends.

The four-day Utah leg of the 11,500-mile trek is scheduled to begin at sunrise beneath picturesque Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.

Ken Matthews, AirMed program director and chief flight nurse, sees the event as a rallying point for Utahns.

"I think regardless of whether or not you were for or against the Olympics, we're right in the middle of it now. People are getting excited and gearing up," he said. "To be part of a historic event is really an honor."

The relay is slated to pass through nearly 30 cities and towns with lunchtime and evening celebrations planned along the way. In addition to Arches, the flame will make stops in Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks. Many have been planning for months, if not more than a year, to host the torch.

Moab is planning a grand welcome for the flame, which began its journey in Olympia, Greece, last November.

"We have a lot going on, and a lot of people are participating in the community," said Saina, who heads the Moab 2002 Committee.

Mountain bikers, Jeep clubs, boaters and hot-rodders are among numerous groups planning to line the streets with banners and signs as the flame passes. Some clubs will root for their "adopted" torchbearers for whom they purchased the $335 torch.

"There are so many different people that love Moab in different ways," she said.

In Provo, 6,000 luminarias decorated by schoolchildren will guide torch runners through the streets. The city also has set up 10 "rally points" where neighborhoods and schools will gather to cheer on the Olympic flame.

"I think this is going to be really, really big," said Tara Riddle, community task force chairwoman for the torch relay. "Some of the neighborhoods are just going nuts."

Osmonds ? Second Generation will headline an evening caldron lighting celebration outside LaVell Edwards Stadium.

The torch will arrive in Tooele at about 9:50 a.m. on Feb. 6 and hit the stage in a Smith's parking lot along Main Street at around 10:20 a.m. The city has budgeted $10,000 for a daylong celebration that includes a fireworks display, entertainment, food and craft vendors. The nearly three-mile torch route through Tooele will be covered by 17 runners, including 2000 Olympian Amy Palmer.

Besides the AirMed plane, the flame will be placed aboard a historic steam train. Three locomotives, two from the Heber Valley Railroad and one from Nevada, will haul it from Soldier Hollow to Heber City.

Schoolchildren are anticipated to turn out all along the journey through the state.

McMillan Elementary students will serenade the flame entourage when it passes in front of their Murray school. Riverview Junior High student musicians will play a ditty or two, too. An elementary school choir and the Murray High School jazz band will greet torchbearers completing the leg to City Hall.

"The kids are really getting excited about it," Murray District spokeswoman Julie Woodward said. "It's a chance-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Contributing: Jennifer Toomer-Cook, Stephen Speckman

E-MAIL: romboy@desnews.com