HOPES ARE HIGH FOR 2002 AT TRACK GROUNDBREAKING

Published: Saturday, June 4 1994 12:00 a.m. MDT

The participating athletes wore suits and ties instead of skintight Lycra bodysuits, and the weather was hot and dusty rather than cold and snowy.

Even so, Olympic sledding and sliding were on everyone's mind at the ground-breaking ceremony Friday for the bobsled and luge track at the Utah Winter Sports Park just off I-80.Backers of Salt Lake City's bid for the 2002 Winter Games hope the $20 million track - the final winter-sports facility expected to be built by Utah taxpayers - will bring the Olympics to the state.

Agreeing to construct facilities that could be used for Olympic training as well as for introducing novices to winter sports already earned Salt Lake City's bid the support of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The state is spending a total of $59 million on the facilities, which also include ski jumps and a summer landing pool at the sports park, an ice rink in Ogden and a speedskating oval and ice rink under construction in Kearns.

In exchange, the USOC endorsed Salt Lake City's eventually unsuccessful bid for the 1998 Winter Games as well as the current bid. The International Olympic Committee will select the site of the 2002 Winter Games in June 1995.

The bobsled and luge run is scheduled to be completed by December 1995, whether or not the Olympics come to the state, as is the speedskating oval and ice rink in Kearns.

"When Utahns make promises, they keep them," Utah Sports Authority Chairman Randy Dryer said at Friday's ceremony. The Sports Authority is the state agency overseeing the $59 million facility budget.

Charles Davis, director of the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, said the IOC won't be able to bypass Salt Lake City's bid a second time.

Davis praised the state's efforts. "We like to say that the `O' in Olympic Committee stands for `opportunity,' and that's what you're doing here," he said.

Bobsledders and lugers promised the track will get plenty of use. Ron Rossi, executive director of the U.S. Luge Association, said there is tremendous interest in the sport.

During the 1994 Winter Games in Norway, an advertisement ran in the northeast United States encouraging young people to call the association for information on a special luge training program.

Rossi said the association anticipated as many as 7,000 callers - but got 35,000. Another 300,000 tried to get through to the association's Lake Placid, N.Y., office but failed.

"That's my response to the question, `How much interest is there in the U.S.,' " Rossi said, predicting enough Utahns will take up the sport to produce an Olympic team member in 2002.

Matt Roy, executive director of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, said the facility will benefit both the country's top athletes and area beginners.

"I know this will be a great facility for us and for you and your children," Roy said. After the ceremony, he told a reporter the federation may move its offices to the Park City area from Lake Placid.

Rossi said the luge association will probably stay put in that former Olympic community because of a million-dollar training facility there but would hire a coach for lugers who train in Utah.

The 4,378-foot track is being billed as the fastest in the world, with maximum speeds for the four-man bobsled event at 83 mph and the maximum speed for the luge at 81 mph.

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