Olympics: Salt Lake's 'dry' Games end with a drunken riot

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The Independent US

They started with barely a whimper, but the Winter Olympics finished with a full-blown riot yesterday.

They started with barely a whimper, but the Winter Olympics finished with a full-blown riot yesterday.

The strict Mormon heritage and alcohol laws make a normal night in Salt Lake City on the quiet side. But the Olympics have meant that it has been anything but a normal couple of weeks in Utah.

After a stilted opening, the Games livened up with a judging scandal on the skating rink and Russia's threat to pull out because of perceived injustices. What the organisers needed was a harmonious end ahead of last night's glitzy closing ceremony. Instead, it all went wrong.

The trouble began in central Salt Lake City early yesterday when Bud World, a bar set up for the festivities, became crowded and people spilled on to Main Street, close to the medals plaza. With no way back to the beer, the revellers degenerated into an ugly mob. Riot police used foam-tipped bullets to scatter the crowd, and 20 people were arrested after cans and bottles were thrown.

If these were unusual sights in Salt Lake City, then on the piste there was an even rarer sight. In 78 years of the Winter Olympics, Britain had never won a skiing medal. But on Saturday, Alain Baxter, a 28-year-old from Aviemore, completed a remarkable few days for the British team by winning bronze in the slalom. This, with the women's curling gold and Alex Coomber's bronze in the skeleton bobsleigh, made it Britain's best Winter Olympics since 1936.

As a spokesman for the organising committee put it: "They were inspiring, memorable and will stand out in the psyche of those who watched and participated in them." And that included the rioters.

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