Hello, everybody, I'm pretending to be your host today. Now that the opening ceremonies have gone off without a hitch ? or an explosion ? and the competition is under way, introductions are in order.

Welcome to the best Olympics money (and scholarships and shopping sprees and Super Bowl tickets) can buy (what, you didn't see that line coming?). As SLOC tells its volunteers to say when asked, "There were some challenges in the past, but now we don't give a rip."

Welcome, too, to the biggest, most expensive, most painful, most attended Winter Games ever. If you feel inclined to thank us for the Olympics, don't expect us to reply, "It was no trouble." Think root canal.

We trust you'll find everything to your liking. We've spiffed up the place for you. New highways. New facilities. New laws. New mass transit. New snow. As if on cue, after years of drought Mother Nature has brought the snowiest winter in memory, just in time for the Games.

Frankly, we earned this Olympics the old fashioned way: With cash and prizes and what's behind Door No. 2. (OK, can we cut out the scandal jokes already?!) Seriously, we earned it with hard work and considerable community angst. (We couldn't even put those rings on the hill without voting on it.)

The Olympics are the biggest thing to hit Utah since Brigham Young stopped at the top of East Canyon and said, "This is the place ? for the biathlon. We'll put the luge over there and curling over here. . . . " Weeks later the bidding process began, and the Pioneers sent IOC members home with free oxen.

About those introductions: We're a medium-size state with wide open spaces and big mountains that collect custom-made snow that is special-delivered freeze-dried by this otherwise useless salty lake northwest of town.

We like family, ice cream, Jell-O (don't ask), snowmobiles, Stockton to Malone, cowboy boots, the deer hunt, pickup trucks and Suburbans with trailer hitches.

Yes, we have Mormons. If you want to pet one, just stop anyone on the street. There's a 70 percent chance you found a genuine Mormon.

Beware, we have occasional L.A.-like winter inversions in which dirty air hangs over the valley so thick that you have to floss it out of your teeth.

Mother Nature did a little showing off in our state. We are her sampler package. We have deserts, red rock, sand dunes, arches, mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, plus a variety of other natural wonders ? Delicate Arch, Zion's Park, Mt. Olympus, Mt. Timpanogos, Mt. Majerus, the Great Salt Lake. (One tip: the only people who visit the lake are from out of town.)

We're as square as a bar of soap, which makes us the butt of jokes, which makes us a little thin-skinned, which makes us eager to please (just ask Jean-Claude Ganga). Our "swearing" takes the form of "omiheck." You can get an alcoholic drink here, but you have to have a note from your mother.

Frankly, Utahns don't know what they want to be ? a hip, urbane, popular member of the class, or the nerdy, quiet kid on the back row who prefers home and hearth and doesn't smoke or drink or apologize for it. But enough about our baggage.

(Speaking of which, asking the average Utahn about polygamy is like asking a Texan about Branch Davidians. We know as much as you do. We considered putting a polygamist in a cage so everyone could look and point, but the courts already did that to Tom Green.)

As a state, we're also uncertain about advertising Utah. Why let the secret out? One philosophy: Look us over, enjoy the Games, spend your money, leave. On the other hand, we want to show off the place. We like the spotlight. Our buttons just about burst when we see Utah on national TV. When the president gushed about our state Friday night ? he called our state "majestic" and said we were the "perfect site" for these Games ? we beamed.

We want you to like us. We feel misunderstood. We cause a certain curiosity. Now the world will be watching little old Utah. There are 9,000 journalists in town ? about double the population of Garfield County. It makes us want to comb our hair and stand up a little straighter.

This is our moment. For 17 days, this is the place.

Doug Robinson's column will run daily through the Games. You may e-mail him at drob@desnews.com.