Thousands expected to attend Olympic celebration in downtown Colorado Springs
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Four-time Olympic medalist Bruce Baumgartner lights the torch to begin the Olympic Downtown Celebration Friday, Aug. 5, 2016, in downtown Colorado Springs on the opening night of the Rio Games. Baumgartner won two golds, one silver and one bronze in wrestling. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

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PYEONGCHANG OLYMPIC DOWNTOWN CELEBRATION DETAILS

A citywide celebration of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games opening ceremony, 5-10 p.m. Friday, downtown Colorado Springs, Tejon Street and Pikes Peak Avenue, free; 634-7333, coloradospringssports.org.

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Olympic speed skater Eric Heiden will be lighting the Olympic City USA Cauldron for Friday's Olympic celebration in downtown Colorado Springs.

Heiden competed at the 1980 Winter Olympics, setting four Olympic records and one world record for speed skating. The most successful athlete from a single edition of the Olympic Winter Games, he was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983.

"We haven't had a speed skater representative in the past, so we are very excited that we had the opportunity to ask Eric Heiden, and that he said yes," said Jeff Mosher, Colorado Springs Sports Corp. special projects manager. Each time, the group tries to recruit a representative from one of the Olympic sports.

The PyeongChang Olympic Downtown Celebration will open with live coverage on a jumbo screen of the opening ceremony in PyeongChang, South Korea, followed by the lighting of the Olympic flame at 5:28 p.m. Downtown was also the site for Olympic celebrations in 2012, 2014 and 2016, with the Rio 2016 Olympic celebration attracting over 20,000.

This year has something new. "We have added the Olympic Ideals Awards, which allows elementary schools to submit (names of) students who have upheld the Olympic ideals of friendship, respect and excellence. So those students will get to walk behind (Heiden) after the torch lighting," Mosher said.. "We also have some very special guests this year leading the torch march, which is also different." The elementary students will be joined by members of the Olympic Committee, the Olympic/Paralympic Alumni Association and other Olympic athletes as they march south on Tejon toward the center stage.

The festivities include entertainment, sports booths, children activities, a beer garden and food vendors.

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