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Volume 4, Issue 1                                    University of Houston

UH, Houston puts on good show for Olympic committee as torch winds through city

By Ken Fountain
Breaking News Staff

The University was bathed in a little Olympic glory Monday evening as the procession of torchbearers carrying the Olympic flame on its way to Salt Lake City passed by the campus.

Hundreds of well-wishers, many of them waving American flags, lined Cullen Boulevard and Holman Street to watch the torch-bearers -- selected members of the Houston-area community. The runners were accompanied by a caravan of dignitaries in cars and buses, and were continually tracked from above by television station helicopters.

The event began at the Amtrak train station downtown at 1 p.m., with 1998 figure skating gold medalist Tara Lipinski of Sugar Land as the first person to carry the flame. The relay wound through the Heights area, then down lower Westheimer Boulevard to the Galleria area.

KHOU-TV anchorwoman Lisa Foronda takes a breather after having carried the Olympic torch near the University of Houston Monday.

Pin Lim/Breaking News

Then the procession headed back up Richmond Avenue to the West University area, through the Rice University campus and Hermann Park to Holcombe Boulevard and Old Spanish Trail toward Martin Luther King Boulevard on its way to UH.

After passing by the campus, the relay made its way past Texas Southern University, through the Third Ward and the Montrose area before heading back downtown for the finish at the George R. Brown Convention Center, where 1984 gymnastics gold medalist Mary Lou Retton-Kelly set a huge cauldron alight.

The cross-country trip began Dec. 4 in Atlanta, sight of the 1996 Olympic Games (the last time the event was held in the United States). Following its Houston leg, the relay went to San Antonio. It will proceed through the Northeast, the Midwest, the Southwest, up the West Coast and the Western states before winding up in Salt Lake City on Feb. 8 for the 2002 Winter Games.

Always a memorable occasion, the flame's passage through America has taken on special significance in the aftermath of the September terrorist attacks.

In Houston, and at UH, the event had an even greater significance. Houston is one of five cities vying for selection by the U.S. Olympic Committee as the American choice to compete for the 2012 Olympics. The committee will make its final choice in the fall of 2002. The International Olympic Committee will choose the site of the Games in 2005.

If Houston is ultimately selected, UH would directly benefit. Plans call for Robertson Stadium and the facilities of the Athletic/Alumni Center to be used as practice facilities, and the neighborhood bound by Cullen Boulevard, Scott Street, Elgin Street and Interstate 45 would be completely rebuilt to serve as the "Olympic Village," where the competitors would be housed.

In July, members of the U.S. Olympic Committee toured Houston and UH. The committee's media liaison, Robert Condron, said then that Houston had presented an "excellent" bid, with the concentration of its sports venues within Loop 610 one of the primary factors in the city's favor.

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