This Wall, Not That!

There are walls, and then there are WALLS. The ‘wall’ we hear the most about these days is the one between the southern border of the U.S. and the northern border of Mexico. The wall I remember learning about as a child was the Great Wall of China, which is about 5,500 miles from beginning to end and is an international UNESCO protected historical site which can be seen by the Space Shuttle. I grew up hearing about the German wall that separated east and west Berlin after WWII and the Cold War (built in 1961) and then watched in 1991 when people from both sides of the wall tore it down when the Germanies decided to let people be free to travel to either side. There’s the Korean Wall blocking north and south Koreans from traveling to either country, walls to stop people in India, Bangladesh, Israel’s West Bank, and a myriad of defensive walls in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Vatican City. Art walls, like the Bondi Sea Wall in Australia are all over the world consensually or non-consensually, with beautiful local graphics by taggers, street artists and professionals.

What’s the most famous wall in Utah?  Methinks it’s the one surrounding Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City!  I’ve always been impressed that the wall around the entire block has not been regularly tagged because it’s one large canvas for artists and those with evil intent. Plus, they have always kept all the church property there in uber clean shape and decorated nicely for the Christmas holiday. I’ve also hated the wall there because it makes the place look foreboding and off limits and keeps the views of the gothic architecture of the Temple itself hidden from tourists and folk passing by.

Well the wall is about to change (finally) as the Church of Jesus Christ has announced a massive upgrade of Temple Square.  This multi-year project will include the renovation of portions of the wall that will be opened and modified to allow more inviting views and better access to temple grounds. The existing South Visitors’ Center will be demolished and replaced with two new guest and visitor pavilions. Following the renovation, temple patrons and guests will enter the temple through the new entry pavilions to the north and proceed down to a grand hall. The formal temple entry point (recommend desk) will sit underneath large skylights that will provide natural light and generous views of the temple above. Patrons will then proceed down the grand hall to the historic temple.  For temple patrons who enter from the Conference Center parking area, a new guest access tunnel will be built under North Temple Street that will allow for direct underground entry to the grand hall from the parking structure.

Other renovations will include upgrades in mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems on the property and a significant seismic upgrade to the temple itself. The Church reports that anywhere between 3-5 million people visit Temple Square every year-almost as many folks who visit Utah’s national parks!

Sport Climbing

Next summer (July-August) many of us will be glued to mostly re-broadcasts of the Summer Olympics being held in Tokyo, Japan. As an aside, some of us will be wondering if Utah will win to host the Winter Olympics one more time. Last year Salt Lake City received approval to bid again for the games in 2026 or 2030. We liked having the world visiting our state.  KSL reported that the 2002 Games “Were among the most lucrative ever staged and official state estimates of the economic impact showed $100 million in profits, $4.8 billion in sales, 35,000 job years of employment and $1.5 billion in earnings for Utah workers during 2002.”  

Because the cost of putting on the athletic showcase is insanely expensive, promoters are looking to hold future games at host cities who already have the infrastructure in place from previous games to host them again. I always thought Utah was a perfect selection for the games because a) we have such great winter sports areas already and b) we have a bazillion missionaries/returned missionaries who speak most of the languages of the world. The callout for volunteers was amazing and posts filled up almost instantly with eager Utahns.

The only Olympics I’ve ever attended was the XIX 2002 games held here in Utah. Much of the competitions happened in our mountains near the capitol city but skating was inside at the then Delta Center, hockey at the Utah Olympic Oval (aka the Oquirrh Park Fitness Center in Kearns) and opening and closing ceremonies at the University of Utah Stadium. There were other venues scattered around to share the economic love in many Utah cities. It was not too hard to get tickets to watch crazy people fly face first down ice-like tubes at the luge, jump off a ramp to (hopefully) land on two boards 800+ feet later in the Nordic ski jump, or sweep ice in front of 40 pound stones in curling. A friend gave me her opportunity to buy tickets and I ended up with opening and closing ceremonies and skating. I’m not really into ice skating but the drama of Russian coaches possibly throwing their votes and Sarah Hughes beating out favorite Michelle Kwan for the gold in women’s singles was exciting.

We’d do well hosting Summer Games, too. We’ve got many indoor venues, lakes and rivers and well, mountains. For the first time ever, athletes will compete in 2020 for medals in climbing in three disciplines: bouldering, sport and speed. The national governing body for rock athletes, USA Climbing, was relocated to SLC last year and athletes are training inside non-descript buildings downtown and in our mountains. Bouldering is climbing on real or fake rocks without ropes, in sport climbing anchors are fixed to the rock, climbs are less than 30 meters and are super steep and you’re timed on speed and difficulty of the climb. You’ll be hearing more about this and other newly added events (karate, skateboarding, and surfing) as our athletes compete in lesser events before the big show in Japan in 2020.

Women in Utah

Sure, you know me from writing this column, but for 28 years I had a radio program dedicated to women’s music, women’s history and women’s news. It was the longest running program of its kind in the country. I write this because I still pay close attention to women in the news and women’s music. Utah’s women have been getting a great deal of recognition as of late, to wit:          

  • The Utah Women and Leadership Project just released a study that Utah women are voting now more than any election since 2006. This makes female voters in Utah rank now 11th in the nation as women who vote, which is up from 35th in the nation in 2006. This is terrific news but the report states that there are 316,000 women in Utah who have not registered to vote.  Whether you’re male or female, it is so simple to register on-line to vote in local and national elections online by going to:
  • The flip side of more women voting is the report out that Utah has been found to be the worst state for women’s equality, this time by in their findings in “2019’s Best & Worst States for Women’s Equality.”  How did they determine this? By looking at women’s health and doctor visit affordability, education, number of women in the legislature, income disparity and workplace environment. They also ranked the Beehive State 49th for the largest gap in wages and women holding elected positions. The best state for women’s equality? Maine.
  • Another study paid for by Utah’s Young Women’s Christian Association, the Status of Women in the States and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research released a report last month that finds Utah women make 69.8% of what Utah men make which is about 10% lower than the national average. Women who work full time are making $36,300 annually, and white women are making more than Hispanic women. Also, it’s interesting to note that Utah has the highest percentage of women who work part time but these women make less than a third of what their full time female counterparts make.  Other findings from this particular report: 1) 90% of Utah women live above the national poverty rate and 2) almost 89% of Utah women have health insurance. 
  • None of this can change if women don’t get involved in making change happen. Voting is one of the best ways to help make change and improve our state for both sexes. Women’s suffrage was granted here in 1870 years before we became a state. According to Wikipedia, “Among all U.S states, only Wyoming granted suffrage to women earlier than Utah, yet because Utah held two elections before Wyoming, Utah women were the first women in the country to cast ballots in the United States.” Lucky Salt Lakers, two women are running for Mayor of the capitol city.

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