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Former Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Tom Welch says he thinks the Games will make Utah proud, and he's here to enjoy them.

It's been a long Olympic road for Tom Welch. But now, with the Games just eight days away, Welch is upbeat. He says he thinks the Olympics will be everything Utahns dreamed they would be.Tom Smart, Deseret News

It must be just they way he imagined it. A beautiful Utah day in the winter of 2002. Volunteers in bright uniforms. Visitors welcomed by a choir of kids.

But, Tom Welch is just another face in the crowd. His return to the city he led to the Olympics is the latest twist in a story no one could have predicted, and no one would have believed, if it weren't all true.

"A little sentimental," Welch said. "After 17 years and two and a half million miles, it's a little bit emotional coming back to town for the Games. Looking at our mountains, the pristine snow, it's exciting. I think we're gonna have a great time the next 20 days."

Along the way, Welch was first a traveling international salesman, logging untold hours in airports, attending countless meetings, lobbying hundreds of officials. With Olympic victory, he became the hometown Olympic hero, most responsible for winning the big prize.

The Olympic bribery scandal made Welch a villain, accused of bribery and fraud in winning the Games. Now he emerges, welcomed warmly by wellwishers and his children, embattled but not broken.

"What happened was a brush fire started and ya know, a lot of people didn't want to get smoke on their face and ran away," Welch said. "And then it was difficult for them to reverse their position. I think the important thing to look at now is that after 30 years, the world is coming to our doorstep."

Now that they're here, Welch says, the Games will be the highpoint of Utah's long Olympic journey.

"If the people of this community will get excited, if we reach out with a hand of friendship to our visitors, the Games of Salt Lake will be remembered as the greatest Games we've ever had, and that's what I want to witness," Welch said.

It's likely we'll be seeing plenty of Tom Welch over the next few weeks. He plans to attend a number of Olympic events, including the Opening Ceremonies. He says he bought his tickets from a scalper.

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