Grand Junction's Olympic memories: Are more to come?

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT) -- The last time the Winter Olympics were held in the United States was 2002 in Salt Lake City. They had a big impact even over here in Grand Junction.

And it could happen again.

Feb. 2, 2002, will be a day retiring Visit Grand Junction Executive Director Debbie Kovalik will remember forever.

"Absolute highlight of my career was for us to be put on the map," Kovalik said.

In all, 30,000 people came to watch the torch make its way into town.

The impacts continued when the games began.

"We did get lots of people that were driving through here to Salt Lake City on I-70," Kovalik said. "Spending the night, going out to eat and doing things that were affordable."

Kovalik said it became the second busiest year for hotels in the past 30 years. Only 1994 exceeded it, when Pope John Paul II visited Denver.

History could repeat itself. Salt Lake City has put its hat in the ring for the 2026 or 2030 Games, and an exploratory committee is seeking input on whether Denver should bid for Winter Olympics.

Both could be game changers for Grand Junction.

"Without question, the big difference between then and now is the internet and the ways to promote that would be more than regional but national," Kovalik said. "We would be more productive marketing by possibly targeting people with tickets to stay here before and after."

But for now, the memories of that unique day will live on in the hearts and minds of those who witnessed it.

"When you have a big event like that you find out the best about people and who lives in the Grand Valley," Kovalik said.

Click here to learn more about the 2018 Winter Olympics.

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