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Brad Rock: Salt Lake Olympics for 2022 a matter of money

Published: Thursday, Feb. 23 2012 2:02 p.m. MST

Eric Heiden, five-time Olympic gold medalist and world record holder in speedskating, discusses the formation of an exploratory committee to consider a bid for the 2022 or 2026 Olympics at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns on Wednesday, February 8, 2012. Heiden is one of the committee members.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY —

If you've noted the global financial crisis and seen people protesting government cutbacks in Europe, it's a natural thing to ask: What city in its right mind would want to host the Olympics?

Which is reason No. 1 why Salt Lake should push forward with a plan to host 2022 Winter Games.

It's the most responsible choice on earth.

Governor Gary Herbert announced earlier this month that he was forming an exploratory committee to weigh Salt Lake's chances of hosting the Games in 10 years. That's not hard to imagine, since it wouldn't be Utah's first time around. But now there are more facilities, better freeways, more hotel space and a brand-new downtown.

Ten years after hosting the Winter Games, Salt Lake is the perfect candidate for a sustainable, accountable era of Olympics. The days of over-the-top excess should be long gone. Why not base the Olympics largely on expense?

Isn't that how real people shop?

Utah could become the dollar store of Olympic sites: Same great stuff at a fraction of the cost.

"When you look at the economic turmoil in Europe, those countries would largely have to come up with significant government funding," said Fraser Bullock, CFO of the 2002 Games in Salt Lake.

He noted that Rome just dropped out of the 2020 Summer Games bidding due to cost.

"Other countries need to similarly take careful evaluation in these times," he added. "In today's environment, Salt Lake certainly makes a strong argument."

There are various arguments why Salt Lake shouldn't host the games, the strongest being that it has recently done that. Generally, the IOC likes to see the world. How many committee members really want to come back to Temple Square when they could be in a marketplace in Almaty?

Oslo might be closest to Salt Lake in terms of readiness, but its venues are farther apart.

Salt Lake isn't necessarily America's first choice and certainly not the IOC's. Even in the U.S., there are areas such as Denver (sorry, that ship sailed in 1976), Reno/Lake Tahoe (hey, it's a 'gamble') and Bozeman (don't laugh, it's bigger than Lillehammer), hoping for a chance. Some argue Salt Lake hasn't done much for the Olympic movement since 2002.

So what has Sacramento done for it lately?

Currying favor and spending money shouldn't be deciding factors anymore. A refurbished Olympic experience would be as good as a new one. The facilities are already in place; all it would take is a little tweaking.

Salt Lake 2022 is gassed up and ready to go.

Things have changed since Salt Lake last hosted the Olympics. Now potential host cities are visited by an "evaluation commission" which, among other things, does a "technical assessment of candidate cities." That includes site visits.

Looks like the commission is in luck. Salt Lake has already done the heavy lifting. Not only could Utah be ready for the 2022 Games, it could be ready by lunch. It has the venues, the athletes and the accommodations — not to mention thousands of volunteers, all available for the cost of some ski parkas with the Olympics logo on the back.

The 2022 people could wrap this thing up with a video conference.

Recycling venues doesn't always work, but it often does. Miami has hosted 10 Super Bowls, New Orleans nine. Los Angeles never tires of hosting the Academy Awards. Those locations work because they always work.

For decades the Olympics were staged with arrogance and excess. Why not try doing things on time and on a budget?

Munich is bigger, Oslo more historic, Kazakhstan more exotic, but none would be more cost-efficient.

Just add snow.

This isn't merely visitors bureau blather. It's money talk, economic talk, practical talk. While it's true that TV pays billions for broadcast rights, it's also true that cities can lose money on the Games. Reports say NBC paid more than $4 billion for Olympic broadcast rights through 2020, but the Vancouver Sun estimated the 2010 games alone cost $6 billion to stage.

In an era when almost everyone, everywhere has had to cut back, it only makes sense to get the most for the least.

Even the IOC should recognize a bargain when it sees it.

email: rock@desnews.com

Twitter: therockmonster

Facebook: rockmonsterunplugged

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