Once the U.S. Olympic Committee approved their plan to slow down construction on sports facilities, Utah's Olympic officials were back to the business of lobbying for the 2002 Winter Games.
Officials from the Salt Lake City Bid Committee for the Olympic Winter Games and the Utah Sports Authority got the USOC membership to consider the plan earlier Sunday than scheduled so they could catch a noon flight.With them was Phillip Coles, the head of the Australian Olympic Committee. Sydney, Australia, is a contender for the 2000 Summer Games and an ally Salt Lake wants in the bid for the following Olympics.
Coles is seeing the sites of the winter sports facilities that Utah will now take a little longer to build now that the USOC membership has voted to amend its agreement with Salt Lake City.
That agreement, signed long before Salt Lake City lost the 1998 Winter Games to Nagano, Japan, last June, originally required a bobsled and luge track, speed-skating oval, ice sheets and ski jumps to be completed in 1992.
But without the revenue from the '98 Games, Salt Lake officials realized they couldn't afford to both build and operate all the facilities through 2002 with the $54 million available from taxpayers.
So they asked the USOC for help. Instead of money, the USOC formed a task force to come up with a new construction schedule. Despite months of negotiations, the task force was unable to agree on a schedule.
When the USOC meeting began in Colorado Springs last week, representatives of bobsled and luge athletes were holding out for an earlier completion date on their track.
Under the new construction schedule, they'll have to wait until 1995 to train and compete in Salt Lake City.
Their attempt to move up the completion date a year failed when members of the Utah delegation held firm to their bottom line: $54 million. Finishing the bobsled and luge track, they said, would add $2 million to that.
Sunday's unanimous USOC vote came after two days of tough talking between the Utah delegation and the bobsled and luge representatives, which include a former vice president of the Salt Lake City bid committee.
Neil Richardson, the recently elected president of the U.S. Bobsled Federation, joined bid committee president Tom Welch and sports authority chairman Randy Dryer Sunday at a press conference following the vote.
"Ultimately, it was recognized that sport had to be a partner with us and help us through this difficult time," Welch said, later predicting that Richardson's new post would serve the bid well in the future.
Through tears, Richardson thanked Welch and Dryer for "pushing" him. "It would have been very easy for everyone to walk away and the whole dream to die," he said.
Richardson explained the decision of his sport and luge by comparing the $20 million track that will be built near Park City to a car.
"When someone offers to buy you a $20 million car and says you can have it in two weeks," Richardson said, one probably would rather get it sooner. "But you're definitely not going to say you don't want it at all."
Under the new construction schedule, work will start on the bobsled and luge track in 1994; on the speed-skating oval in 1994; on the ice sheets, in 1992.
Work is already under way on ski facilities at the bobsled and luge site, described as a winter sports park. Under the new plan, a $2.5 million freestyle ski jump with a pool so it can be used in summer will also be built.
Utah Olympic officials said the jump was added because they expect it to be a big moneymaker, unlike some of the other facilities. Visitors would be charged several dollars to watch athletes train on the jump.
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