Games to have a spiritual side
Games to have a spiritual side
SLOC's interfaith group
organizing chaplain program
By Carrie A. Moore
Deseret News religion
While area philanthropists are busy signing
large checks destined to support the 2002 Winter Olympics, a veritable
melting pot of area religious leaders is looking to give the Games a
boost with something beyond material wealth.
Their activities and plans vary widely, but they're
all operating with one goal in mind to welcome the world to Salt
Lake City in spirit, as well as in body.
Alan Barnes, manager of interfaith relations for
SLOC, said the International Olympic Committee requires that the host
city provide chaplains to serve the athletes, making spiritual care part
of the mandate for local Olympic organizers. "So we chose to form an
Interfaith Relations Roundtable, drawing on a good cross section of
community religious leaders along the Wasatch Front and throughout
The group, which has met regularly for several
months and includes dozens of leaders, is discussing various ways that
denominations and individual congregations can contribute to the success
of the Games, he said. "Every denomination was invited to participate,"
he said. "Some have been more aggressive in participating than others,
but most want to get more involved as we get closer to the Olympics.
Several proposals are underway at present,
including discussion about the possibility of renovating the chapel at
Fort Douglas "as a lasting legacy for the University of Utah and the
"We're exploring it right now, but there is no
announcement. Right now we're building bridges of understanding between
various faith traditions, both Christian and non-Christian. Certainly
that has been a positive thing that has occurred already as we've
regularly met together. We've got subcommittees discussing areas that
can be a legacy for our state and community that have come from the
various religions, not individually but working together. It's still
very much in the formative and exploratory stages."
Barnes said he couldn't discuss whether
fund-raising efforts have been formed for the proposed Fort Douglas
The roundtable has also formed a subcommittee to
conduct a search for some 40 chaplains who will volunteer their services
during the Games.
David Randle, chairman of the Salt Lake Olympic
Chaplain Committee, said nine chaplains have already been recommended to
serve seven of them from Utah and one each from California and
British Columbia. His subcommittee was charged with setting up criteria
by which potential chaplains could be judged, distributing applications,
then making recommendations to the interfaith roundtable. That group
makes the final selection.
"They have to have some recognized affiliation with
an established religious organization, demonstrate interfaith
sensitivity and be able to donate 40 hours a week for the 17 days the
Games are on," Randle said. "They also have to be able to work within
diverse ethnic communities, with young adults and participate in
training that SLOC will offer over a period of several months before the
Experience working with athletes, or personal
athletic experience is also a plus, Randle said.
"We've had applicants from Russia, Sweden and other
European countries, as well as every state. We haven't put the
application on the internet because we're not set up to handle floods of
applicants. We hope that Utah faith communities will provide the bulk of
chaplains. They'll be training over a couple of years, and expense-wise
we're better able to do that when they're local."
Randle said he's determined that Salt Lake won't
make some of the same mistakes that happened during the 1996 Summer
Games in Atlanta. He's spent time visiting with those who organized the
chaplaincy effort there to avoid missing opportunities for chaplains to
"When they had the bombing, there was no plan for
them to respond. Some things were done well by accident and in other
areas they dropped the ball. One volunteer who was a hospital chaplain
by training went instinctively to the nearest hospital (after the bomb
blast) and was the only one of 40 to help that way. It did help them
that visitors at the Olympic Village watched the calm of the chaplains
there and it had a very calming effect there. That's something they did
Randle said he'd also like to see chaplains at
venue sites to help athletes deal with their emotions. Having them at
the opening and closing ceremonies would also be a plus. During
Atlanta's opening ceremonies, "the head of the Polish delegation dropped
dead of a heart attack and no chaplain was there to be involved."
Beyond selecting chaplains, Barnes and Randle are
helping area religious leaders prepare to cooperate in their efforts to
help host the Olympics.
An interfaith event chaired by both men is
scheduled Jan. 10 and 11 at the SLOC offices. More than 75 lay leaders
and clergy from along the Wasatch Front are scheduled to participate in
the United Religions Initiative seminar. An invitation to the event
seeks participants to "demonstrate to the world that people of different
faith perspectives can work together for the common concerns of peace,
justice, healing and protection of the Earth.
"We have the possibility of reclaiming the ancient
Olympic tradition of the whole person, body, mind and spirit, and
encouraging the world to respect and celebrate the wholeness of each
person," the letter says.
Organized by members of the SLOC Interfaith
Roundtable and the Salt Lake Olympic Chaplain Committee, the two-day
event will help participants develop an understanding of the basic human
values that unite all people, discover their own prejudices, and deepen
their knowledge of international and interfaith issues. Organizers hope
participants will come away with several more solid ideas about how they
can help welcome the world to Utah in 2002 and that the relationships
between area clergy will continue well beyond the Games themselves.
"This (seminar) will probably have the most diverse
representation of any local interfaith conference I've ever attended,"
said Barnes. It will include Bahai, Buddhist, Christian Science, Quaker,
Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, LDS, Southern Baptist, and
Because congregations will be one source of culling
volunteers for the Olympics, Barnes said discussion about that aspect of
hosting the Games will take place, along with opportunities for leaders
to propose their own ways of helping. "In Atlanta, churches hosted the
families of athletes who would not have otherwise been able to afford
the expense of housing during the Games," he said. It's possible some
local congregations may decide to do likewise.
While the seminar represents the formal Olympic
effort to involve churches, another interfaith group not affiliated with
SLOC has also been preparing for Olympic visitors.
June Evans, administrator for the Utah Games
Network, said that group will be holding a retreat Jan. 16-17 in Park
City for its executive board members to discuss plans for education,
hospitality events and sports clinics the group is planning to put on
both before and during the Games.
Specifically, the group is developing ideas they'll
share with congregations about how to use their church buildings as
cultural or hosting centers during the games. "The churches can use
these materials in whatever way they choose, and each will do it in a
little different way."
She said the Salvation Army is already planning to
provide hospitality for people who are waiting in line at the various
Olympic venues. Other congregations are considering hosting pre-Games
sports clinics for children that could begin as early as this summer,
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