More than half of the world — 3.5 billion people — watched the Salt Lake 2002 Opening and Closing Ceremonies on television. That was the largest international audience ever; 50,000 spectators saw the Ceremonies in person at Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium.
On February 8, 2002, the seven-time Emmy Award-winning Opening Ceremony began as a few snowflakes drifted into the stands. President George W. Bush declared the Games open; an honor guard of American athletes, flanked by New York City firefighters and police officers, carried in a flag rescued from the World Trade Center site after September 11.
The Child of Light led in the parade of some 2300 athletes, which gave way to a significant moment in U.S. history: the five Utah tribes appeared together for the first time ever, entering the ice on horseback and performing a vibrant stomp dance. Robbie Robertson and the Dixie Chicks were among the stars who helped share the history of the American West through music and artistry.
The beauty of the Utah landscape set a tableau for the native animals of Utah in giant puppet form to take the ice. Settlers in covered wagons wound their way around the giant ice rink representing the journey west, to the sounds of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Through opposite ends of the stadium crowds came the giant puppet locomotives, joining of the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad and giving the United States its first transcontinental railroad. The vignette closed with the settlers unveiling a quilt the size of the stadium floor, displaying the Salt Lake Olympic emblem.
Cast members — including figure skating Olympians Kristi Yamaguchi and Scott Hamilton — performed on an over sized ice skating rink that covered the stadium floor. Grammy Award-winning artist LeAnn Rimes sang the Salt Lake 2002 official song, Light the Fire Within.
On February 24, the Salt Lake 2002 Closing Ceremony ended the Games with star-studded party for the athletes. Following Olympic tradition, the athletes entered the stadium as one team, representing unity and sportsmanship. KISS, Bon Jovi, Earth, Wind & Fire, Harry Connick Jr., Moby, Gloria Estefan and Christina Aguilera were all part of the nightlong concert. Figure skaters Katarina Witt, Dorothy Hamill and Yamaguichi performed, followed by ultraviolet paint athlete figures that floated across the stadium floor amid a field of iridescent paint.
Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson handed the Olympic Flag to officials from Torino, Italy, host of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. A fireworks extravaganza of 10,000 explosives launching at the rate of 37 shells per second across the Wasatch Front officially brought the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games to a close.