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Olympic hosts face challenges

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PLEASANT GROVE ? Pleasant Grove officials are finding that hosting a foreign Olympic team could very well pass as an Olympic sport itself.

Ina Walker was asked two months ago to take charge of a residents' committee assigned to invite Swedish Olympic team members to Pleasant Grove for a number of activities. The committee was to assemble a list of options and coordinate a series of activities that would introduce the athletes to Pleasant Grove and the community to Swedes visiting Utah during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

"I'll have to say contact me after Feb. 1st," said Walker recently. "Right now, they're (the athletes) all over the place."

Walker's parents live in Sweden, and through them she is working with a press relations contact for the Swedish contingent. She's discovered that Sweden's team is one of the largest in total number of athletes for the Games.

Walker said the concept of a single "team" is not accurate. It is really a number of teams involving numerous events, and it includes not only athletes but coaches, family members and members of the support entourage.

Once the group arrives in America, it isn't certain what kind of time the athletes will have available, if any.

"We'd like them to come to some of the schools and speak or participate in an assembly," Walker said. " We're just not sure what we can do beyond that."

In anticipation, Walker has purchased a number of Swedish flags and has several residents standing by to help with last-minute plans.

"We just can't make any plans until they get here," she said.

Pleasant Grove has a strong Swedish heritage, said City Councilwoman Carol Harmer. That's one of the reasons there's an interest in hosting team members.

It's also an opportunity to share in a rare opportunity for cultural exchange, she said.

"We're optimistic," Walker said. "We're not giving up. We just can't make specific plans until we know more."

E-MAIL: haddoc@desnews.com