Utah County officials on Friday said the state's successful bid to attract the 2002 Winter Games serves as a starting gun to begin their push for a bigger role in hosting the Games.
And Ogden leaders, whose city hosts a brand-new $6.5 million, 2,200-seat ice rink built with the Olympics in mind, were jubilant over the news."We couldn't be more pleased . . . We were taking a chance, but now there's no question we did the right thing to build it," said Ken Miller, director of Weber County's Community Services department, which operates the arena.
Ogden will be the venue for women's ice hockey; the area will also witness downhill and giant slalom skiing, which will take place at Snowbasin, 15 miles up Ogden canyon from downtown.
No venues are planned for Utah County, however, though the county's taxpayers are the second-largest contributors to the fund used to build Olympic facilities. The only money coming back to the county is $3 million promised by the Salt Lake Bid Committee to help Provo build a practice Olympic ice sheet - and that money will come from Olympic revenue.
"I want (bid organizers) to know that as a commissioner representing the citizens I'm happy Utah got the Olympics, but I'm not happy about the lack of equity that we've received," Utah County Commissioner Jerry Grover said.
Grover's sentiment is one shared by most Utah County officials. They are supportive of the Games but say it's time to quit worrying about bad press and start voicing their concern over being snubbed in the venue selection.
"Now the bid is here everyone should welcome open dialogue on Utah County's role in the Olym-pics. And it doesn't have to be negative dialogue," Provo Mayor George Stewart said.
Grover said commissioners will actively push for Olympic officials to reconsider their venue sites. If the committee needs another ice venue or skiing site, the Utah Valley Special Events Center or Sun-dance will likely be glad to step in. The county will also push to be the site of any demonstration sports included in the 2002 Winter Games - like snowboarding.
"It's still an equity issue, and they have to realize that it is an issue down here," Grover said. "If we don't get anything, they ought to give us a refund on our taxes."
Friday's announcement is extra good news for Provo. The city is planning to build a practice ice sheet as part of a new mall, and the Salt Lake Bid Committee promised to contribute $3 million to the project by 1999 if it got the bid. Without the bid, Provo likely would have scratched the project. With the bid in hand, a new ice rink in Provo is likely.
"We assume they are a people of their word," Stewart said.
Even without a planned venue for Utah County, most officials believe the Olympics will have a positive impact on the county. Many Olympic visitors will have to stay in Utah County, which means big bucks for the county's tourism industry. It might also force state officials to spend more money com-pleting local road projects.
"I have no way of knowing what (the impact) will entail," Orem Mayor Stella Welsh said. "There's no way to figure what this will do to traffic, to housing, or what's going to happen."
Grover believes the positives will far outweigh the negatives.
"I don't think it will be any different than any other special event," he said.
Regardless of the economic or social impact, many say Utah should be proud of the worldwide recognition that comes with the Olympics.
"We so often talk about the economic side of this, but we really should just be proud that we can showcase Utah during the world's greatest amateur athletic event," Stewart said.
Ogden officials said the Games will boost that city's image.Comment on this story
"I think this is the biggest marketing opportunity we've ever had," said Ogden chief administrative officer Rocky Fluhart. "We will show people in this country and internationally the people, industry and hospitality we have in this area."
In addition to the giant surge in business during the Olympic Games themselves, Fluhart anticipates significant permanent business growth because of the bid award.
"You can't predict precisely the type (of business) - we'll get a variety," he said. "Of course, the one industry you can count on is winter sports."
Fluhard is also counting on a surge of new motel and hotel construction.
"We're optimistic that will be one of the results," he said.