SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- An Olympics scarred by scandal and tinged with fear opens with a proud new label in a city dominated by Mormons and mountains: America's Games.
A flag-waving celebration just waiting to burst out, the Winter Olympics return to the United States for the first time in 22 years, eager to shed a troubled past and be embraced by cheering crowds.
European stars will come and win most of the medals, but these games will play to a United States much more patriotic because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Heartwarming ceremonies and a best-ever showing by the U.S. team could be exactly what the country needs.
It will unfold in the towering Wasatch Mountains and the valley below, under the tightest security imaginable. At a cost of nearly $2 billion, it will be the most expensive Winter Olympics ever.
But for 17 days beginning Feb. 8, it figures to be quite a show.
"It will be very powerful emotionally," Salt Lake Olympic chief Mitt Romney said. "I think people will go away and say, 'What a magical games."'
If they do, it will be quite different than the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., where it took the "Miracle on Ice" by the U.S. hockey team to help soothe a nation upset over the Iranian hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Organizers call these the "healing games" in deference to the rest of the world. But NBC will wrap them around the American flag for television, and chants of "USA, USA" will reverberate in arenas and on the slopes.
Spectators will pay an average of $82 a ticket to endure traffic jams, security searches and long lines in the cold. Once they get in, they will cheer on the home team in events such as skeleton and short-track speedskating that Americans usually pay little attention to and know little about.
At night they'll party with hot chocolate and entertainers like the Dave Matthews Band in the shadow of the granite spires of the Mormon Temple that dominates downtown.
The slogan is "Light the Fire Within," and the games will celebrate the American West. But the world won't be left out.
Armed with plenty of antibiotics in case of an anthrax attack and enough booze to get around Salt Lake City's strict liquor laws, 75 countries will bring their best on frozen surfaces.
The Hermanator -- Austria skier Hermann Maier -- will be missing, but teammate Stephan Eberharter is a favorite in the downhill and Super G, and Germany's Hilde Gerg could sweep the same gold medals for the women.
Norwegians and Swedes will win more than their share in cross-country skiing, Germans will be among the favorites in all the sliding sports and Russia's Irina Slutskaya will try and deny Michelle Kwan a figure skating gold.
America won't be lacking, either, with speedskating sensation Apolo Anton Ohno, skier Bode Miller, and some dysfunctional female bobsledders among the gold-medal favorites.
Then there's 1998 Olympic champion Jonny Moseley, planning to show off the Dinner Roll jump in which he flies off a mogul and rotates twice with his body parallel to the ground. The sport's lingo is almost as dizzying as his moves.
"If I can come down, throw a 360 mute grab up top, ski the middle clean, and do the Dinner Roll at the bottom with a bute grab, that's the run," Moseley said. "It's over. K.O. punch. Right there."
By the time the Olympics end Feb. 24, 2,654 athletes will have competed for 477 medals. The games have 10 more competitions than Nagano, and more athletes than any other Winter Games.
Women's bobsled makes its Olympic debut, along with the 1,500-meter freestyle race in cross-country skiing for men and women. Skeleton -- a headfirst, belly-down version of luge for men and women -- returns for the first time since the 1948 Olympics.
Athletes, fans and officials will be guarded by a 16,000-member security force that includes sniper teams, Blackhawk helicopters, federal agents and volunteers ready for possible terrorism.
Officials say Salt Lake City will be the safest place in the country during the games, despite an Associated Press poll that says a third of Americans believe the games will be the target of terrorists.
"Terrorism will not prevail. Fear will not prevail," Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said.
The city's downtown high-rises have been wrapped in images of athletes, but to most residents the Olympic image is already one of barricaded streets and National Guardsmen on patrol.
A $310 million plan to protect the games -- much of it at taxpayer expense -- will give them a military look, although top Olympic officials hope that image will change when the games begin.
"All elements are in place to have excellent games," International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said. "I'm quite sure the atmosphere will take over as it has taken over at all the previous difficult games."
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