As 10th anniversary of 2002 Winter Games nears, governor weighing another Olympic bid

Published: Saturday, Feb. 4 2012 12:00 p.m. MST

Broadcast to some 3 billion television viewers worldwide, the Olympics "put us on the map" for international travelers, von der Esch said, especially from Europe.

Spencer P. Eccles, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, said while no companies over the years have cited the Games as the reason they relocated to Utah, the event still influenced their decision.

"You have to be on somebody's radar screen to have them say, 'What about Utah,'" Eccles said. "It all starts with being known and demonstrating what you can do."

The 24,000 volunteers at the Games showed off the strength of Utah's workforce, he said, a key component for companies looking to relocate.

"People had a chance to see, 'You know what, the kind of people here in Utah, their work ethic, their voluntarism, is off the charts,'" he said, also citing Utahns' friendliness and ability to speak foreign languages thanks to their Mormon missionary service.

Why again?

Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt said the state should look seriously at supporting another Olympic bid.

"The case to do it again is compelling, in my view, not just for us but for the Olympic movement. The facilities are there. The competencies are there," Leavitt said. "I think it would be a good thing."

Supporters of another Olympic bid aren't talking publicly about their plans, suggesting it's too soon for specifics in part because an ongoing dispute over revenue sharing between the U.S. and International Olympic committees has stalled any bids from American cities.

"Talk to me in a few weeks," said Lane Beattie, Salt Lake Chamber president and CEO, and the state's former Olympic czar. "We'll do it again. We will. There's no question."

Beattie said the 2002 Games left a legacy for Utahns that's going to be tough to top. "That's one of the difficulties of us putting on another Olympic Games," he said. "The friendliness of Utah citizens has never, anywhere else, even come close" to what visitors experienced a decade ago.

He said just last week, a woman brought up her memories of her son getting up at 3 a.m. to serve as a Games volunteer. "People are so proud," Beattie said of Utahns. "There's a pride that is absolutely wonderful to see."

The Salt Lake Games were widely heralded by the IOC and the rest of the sports world as the best-ever Winter Olympics after overcoming both the impact of an international bribery scandal and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Reforms in the Olympic bidding process as a result of the allegations that Utah tried to buy IOC votes with cash, gifts and scholarships mean IOC members "are no longer treated as princes and princesses," Beattie said.

Utah, he said, may have participated in what many saw as bribery but also helped put an end to the acceptance of what had been a long-standing practice.

Utah reputation

Fraser Bullock, who served as the Games' chief operating officer and has stayed involved in the Olympic movement, said the "end result was that Utah emerged from the Olympics with so many positives, I personally think it was worth it."

Bullock said not only did hosting the Olympics transform Utah into a winter sports capital, it also pulled the community together to save the state's reputation.

Now, he said, people around the world have forgotten the bribery allegations that surfaced in 1998 and just remember how much they liked the Games.

"Obviously, at one point in time, our community took a tremendous hit on our worldwide reputation," Bullock said, recalling someone spotting the Salt Lake Olympic logo on his shirt at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney and taunting him about the scandal. "It was a very troubled time."

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