The Salvation Army passed out water. The Christian Scientists staffed their new Reading Room in Crossroads Plaza. The Southern Baptists distributed lip balm, Kleenex and a Christian pin 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 destroy 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. Pope John Paul II blessed the Games and prayed for world peace. Chaplains from every tradition ministered to the spiritual needs of athletes and volunteers in an interfaith chapel at the Olympic Village. And 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," said the Rev. David Granadino, a Roman Catholic priest from Los Angeles, who came here to be a chaplain. His most treasured Olympic moment? Sunday, Feb. 17, when chaplains gathered with athletes, coaches and volunteers for an interfaith prayer service. "Imagine all those people from the village, sharing and praying together," he says. "It was as if all differences went away."