Seconds before Friday's announcement, you could have heard an Olympic pin drop in a city familiar with rejection.
But at 11:25 a.m. MDT, a wild celebration erupted outside the City-County building after the news that the International Olympic Committee had awarded Salt Lake City the 2002 Winter Games.For the thousands of Utahns dancing downtown, it was sweet redemption after their city had narrowly lost the 1998 Winter Olympics to Nagano, Japan, four years ago, not to mention bids for the 1972, 1976 and 1992 Games.
"This is the greatest feeling in the world," said San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young, a Brigham Young University graduate who is no stranger to rising again after being knocked down. "Everybody got a Super Bowl ring."
Salt Lake City, the front-runner to land the 2002 Games, won because IOC delegates in Budapest, Hungary, believed it was much more prepared than the other finalists: Sion, Switzerland; Ostersund, Sweden; and Quebec City, Canada. Most of the venues for the 2002 Games already are in place here, and the rest are expected to be completed this year. That puts Salt Lake City even ahead of Nagano, which hasn't finished building for the 1998 Winter Olympics.
"I feel as if we just reached the summit of Mount Everest," said Salt Lake City mayor Deedee Corradini, who was in Budapest for the announcement. "I never expected to do it on the first round."
When the vote totals were announced, Salt Lake City was a runaway winner with 54. Ostersund and Sion each had 14 votes and Quebec seven.
Receiving the Winter Olympics gives the metro area and its 1.4 million residents the chance to do some image renovation. The price of putting on the 2002 Games, estimated at $798 million, and the price in terms of population growth and environmental impact are small in comparison to what the Olympics mean for the city's self-worth, many say.
"I think it helps erase the misconceptions that people have about the state and the city itself," said Troy Sauer, 30, of Salt Lake City. "Being out West, we're not East Coast, so nobody knows who you are. I think there's the religious issue, too. Everyone thinks you can't go to Utah and get a drink, that Mormons are funny, weird people."
For the record, beer and wine may be purchased here. Hard liquor may be ordered at a restaurant, as long as 70 percent of the bill is for food. But for the thousands jumping for joy Friday, that was beside the point.
Being drunk on Olympic fever was enough.
2002 Winter Olympics
Salt Lake City has been selected by the International Olympic Committee to host the 2002 Winter Olympics. It will return to the United States for the first time since 1980 in Lake Placid. The site was chosen by secret ballot, with the city receiving the fewest votes eliminated until one had the majority. Other finalists were Ostersund, Sweden; Sion, Switzerland and Quebec.
Salt Lake City
- Population: 1.4 million in metro area.
- Cost: $798 million for Games; $279 million for facilities. Voter-approved sales tax to collect $59 million through 1999 to build venues.
- Experience: Area has hosted World Cup skiing and Nordic events, and numerous national and regional events. Delta Center is home to NBA's Utah Jazz.
- Infrastructure: Most venues exist completed or to be finished this year. Salt Lake International Airport, 10 minutes from downtown, handles 15.5 million passengers a year. Efficient highway system. More than 10,000 top-level hotel rooms in area.
- Strengths: Most venues ready; single Olympic village; good highways; plenty of hotels; familiarity with IOC members; promises fulfilled since last bid.
- Weakness: Atlanta fallout.