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Olympic Exploratory Committee in Utah hires member as consultant

Published: Thursday, May 17 2012 4:56 p.m. MDT

With Fraser Bullock and his USA 2002 jacket in the foreground left, co-chair Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker speaks at right during the first meeting of the Olympic Exploratory Committee in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — The state committee looking at whether Utah should bid to host another Olympics decided Thursday to spend $35,000 to hire one of its members to prepare a final report.

Grant Thomas, a former senior vice president of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake and adviser to the International Olympic Committee, will step down from the state's Olympic Exploratory Committee to serve as a consultant.

Thomas' job as director of construction service with City Creek Reserve Inc., a real estate development arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is set to end on June 1. He will continue to consult with the downtown development entity as needed, Dale Bills, a spokesman for City Creek Reserve, said.

The $35,000 fee Thomas will earn from the exploratory committee is coming from private funds raised by the Utah Sports Commission.

"It's a bargain," said Fraser Bullock, the chief operating officer of 2002 Games. Hiring one of the consulting firms that specialize in preparing Olympic bids would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said, and take much more time.

Thomas is expected to have a final report ready to submit to Gov. Gary Herbert by July 1. Herbert formed the exploratory committee last February, to determine whether the state should bid again for the Winter Games in 2022 or beyond.

Bullock said Thomas, who did not attend Thursday's exploratory committee meeting, will dedicate the coming weeks to writing the report. The exploratory committee had considered divvying up the duties among its members.

"The exploration of hosting the Olympics is a continual process and every step along the way, you want to put your best foot forward," Bullock said, noting that the findings will likely be seen by the same Olympic leaders who will be choosing the future host cities.

"We want to show them we have been thoughtful, we have been careful, and we have taken into consideration all aspects of the Olympic movement," Bullock said, citing Thomas' work with the IOC as a member of the technical committee evaluating bid cities.

"We probably have one of the most capable people in the world literally in our midst," Bullock said.

Olympic bobsled gold-medalist Jimmy Shea said he was concerned some other bid city might hire Thomas. "He knows all our competitive information," Shea said. "We should lock him down as soon as we can."

The exploratory committee agreed the contract with Thomas would spell out he can't share details of the potential bid that are not being discussed publicly, such as the costs involved.

Also, documentation will be sought from the IOC to ensure the Switzerland-based organization does not see Thomas' new consulting job as a conflict with his duties as a technical adviser.

Bullock said there were several reasons the consulting contract was not put out for a bid, including the tight time frame. If the USOC decides to put forth a bid for the 2022 Games, it would likely be due by the end of the year.

Exploratory committee members have said the feedback they've received about another bid has all been positive. A poll is expected to be conducted in the coming weeks to gauge the support of Utahns.

But Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, the lead co-chairman of the exploratory committee, has said the key question is whether enough money could be raised privately to cover bid costs that could reach $30 million.

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com

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