Oly torch kindles boos, awe

January 28, 2002

Deseret News, Monday (Salt Lake City, UT)

By Dennis Romboy
Deseret News staff writer

BOZEMAN, Mont. — From the windows of The Robin, diners and drinkers perched on tall chairs took in the Olympic torch caravan with a mix of awe and disgust.


The Main Street establishment in the lobby of the historic former Baxter Hotel (now condominiums) gave patrons not only relief from the bone-chilling cold but a view of the big parade that precedes bearers of the flame. And they weren't shy about saying what was on their minds.

The buzz started when the first sign of the coming relay — an hour behind schedule — rolled past: the large Coca-Cola truck. Coke and Chevrolet sponsor the $25 million event.

"Go, Mormons," shouted one barfly bolting out the front door.

"Is that the Mormon truck?" said another on his heels.

Neither stuck around to explain the egg they had laid.

Next, a truck with big video screens depicting animal cruelty in protest of the Olympic rodeo rumbled by. "It's a (expletive) PETA truck," someone said.

The Showing Animals Respect and Kindness or SHARK (not PETA but a close cousin) rig wasn't part of the official procession but managed to nudge its way in when relay organizers and police didn't join forces to block its path.

Brianna Jordet stood in the doorway watching it all. Rodeos — there's a lot of cowboys in Montana, she said — don't bug her. But she had trouble with the big moving Coke billboard.

"It's the whole branding of America that gets me," said the Montana State University graphics design major. "The Greeks started the Olympics. They didn't have to have some corporate sponsor."

Jordet wrote the relay off as a "silly American thing."

"But hey, cool, the townsfolk are pretty excited."

Doris Copenhaver stopped in at The Robin for a cup of coffee before heading down to the torch street party. She carried the torch earlier in the day in nearby Big Sky and was still wearing her white torchbearer outfit. She was thrilled to see through the window another person doing the same.

For her, it was anything but silly.

"It's just an incredible feeling. It's indescribable. You feel like you just made the winning touchdown for the Super Bowl," she said.

Copenhaver, 60, is a champion. She endured breast cancer and a radical mastectomy 20 years ago. Six months later, the Helena woman ran her first marathon, her chest wrapped with Ace bandages. She runs to this day, though recent knee surgery has slowed her pace.

"She truly is one of my heroes," said Kirsten Copenhaver, the daughter who nominated her to run the torch.

Meantime, six twentysomethings including Mark Hulst parked themselves at a table, downing drinks near the window. The group waited three hours for a glimpse of the flame.

Hulst was in the bathroom when the big moment arrived.

"You didn't really miss anything is the whole thing," Matt Furshong — the resident cynic, according to his table mates — told his friend. Like Jordet, he was put off by what he saw as a "Coca-Cola affair."

But Peter Seacat called it a great community event. Besides, he said, Bozeman only closes down Main Street three times a year, so it has to be good.

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