This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
For the 2002 Winter Olympics, Utah's diverse religious communities wanted the world to know that the state is home to many faiths, not just Mormons.
So they gathered scores of leaders from dozens of faiths including Baha'i, Baptist, Buddhist, Christian Science, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim to create the Interfaith Roundtable.
During the Games, roundtable members performed myriad services.
The Salvation Army passed out water. Christian Scientists staffed their new Reading Room in Crossroads Plaza. Southern Baptists distributed lip balm, Kleenex and Christian pins with a gospel message. The Falun Gong led meditations and protested China's treatment of their fellow believers.
Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a peace activist who helped dismantle apartheid in South Africa, frolicked with children wearing paper miters at St. Mark's Cathedral in downtown Salt Lake City. Tibetan Buddhists celebrated the Year of the Water Horse.
Chaplains ministered to the spiritual needs of athletes and volunteers in an interfaith chapel at the Olympic Village. Rabbi Benny Zippel, an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn who has made Utah his home, met a Jewish athlete from Russia and prayed with him.
And the judges' assessment? The Games were a spiritual medal winner.
"All my fellow chaplains have done beyond what was expected, given their all," the Rev. David Granadino, a Roman Catholic priest from Los Angeles, said at the Games' conclusion. "Imagine all those people from the village, sharing and praying together. It was as if all differences went away."
The Rev. Silvia Behrend, then co-pastor at the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City, summed it up this way: "What happens when you put a feminist Jewish Unitarian Universalist female clergy in a group with a Roman Catholic nun, a couple of LDS representatives, various flavors of Protestants, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and an Orthodox Jewish rabbi? They fall in love."
What emerged from their Olympic collaboration was "a desire to continue this interfaith dialogue, friendship and understanding," the organizers said on their website. "The Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable has continued to meet monthly ever since and collaborate on mutual interfaith goals."
A decade later, the roundtable is still pursuing those lofty ideals.
It dedicated the month of February, for example, to a series of interfaith activities, culminating on Feb. 26 with a musical tribute at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City to showcase the talents and traditions of many faiths.
It is a fitting symbol of the continuing Olympic spirit, they believe, one of camaraderie and mutual respect.