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Brad Rock: Should Utah make another run at hosting the Olympics?

Published: Saturday, Feb. 22 2014 4:10 p.m. MST

Fireworks explode during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games closing ceremony Sunday, Feb 24, 2002 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Fireworks explode during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games closing ceremony Sunday, Feb 24, 2002 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Pardon Utahns if they scream “Spendthrifts!” or "Knuckleheads!” at their television sets while watching the Olympic closing ceremony on Sunday.

This year’s Olympics have been frustrating, because they’re the most expensive in history. Fifty-one billion dollars is a lot of rubles for a place that can’t afford it. When Nikita Khrushchev said, in effect, “Vee vill bury you!” in 1956, who knew he was talking about debt in 2014?

Russia could have put a dome over Siberia for that kind of money. Salt Lake’s Olympics cost $3 billion and turned a $76 million profit. Vancouver’s cost $7.4 billion. Then Sochi shows up and acts like it’s using Monopoly money.

The whole business has sparked questions as to what will happen next. Will there be a $100 billion Olympics? With the global economy still shaky, isn’t there somebody out there who can put on a budget-conscious Olympics?

Thousands turned out in front of Salt Lake's City and County Building to watch the announcement of the host of the 2002 Winter Olympics on June 16, 1995. (Scott G. Winterton) Thousands turned out in front of Salt Lake's City and County Building to watch the announcement of the host of the 2002 Winter Olympics on June 16, 1995. (Scott G. Winterton)

Of course there is.

Salt Lake is primed and waiting.

A recent Dan Jones & Associates survey showed that 92 percent of Utahns believe the state benefited from hosting the 2002 Games, and 82 percent support a future bid.

“My reaction (to the poll) is that the people of Utah believe and support that the 2002 Games were a tremendous benefit to our state,” says Natalie Gochnour, an associate dean at the Eccles School of Business, which partnered on the survey. “It’s incredibly significant, that if you saw 10 people on the street, nine would agree.”

Simon Ammann of Switzerland makes his final jump at the men's individual K120 jump at Olympic Park during the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. He won gold in the event on February 13, 2002. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Simon Ammann of Switzerland makes his final jump at the men's individual K120 jump at Olympic Park during the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. He won gold in the event on February 13, 2002. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

If you believe the numbers aren’t important, try getting nine out of 10 people to agree on same sex marriage or clean air solutions.

Forty-six percent say they “strongly support” a future Olympic bid by Utah, while 36 percent say they would “support” a bid. Beyond that, Gov. Gary Herbert and Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker have reacted favorably.

The survey included 1,622 Utahns, from every ethnic, age, income and education level.

If the rest of the world were smart, it would beg Salt Lake to host the Olympics again. There’s no reason to keep reinventing the wheel. Miami has hosted the Super Bowl 10 times, New Orleans nine. Why move it to Bismarck? Yet that’s what the Olympic people keep doing.

There would be some modest upgrading and adding needed, but for all intents and purposes, Utah just needs to get Donny and Marie home in time for the opening ceremony.

Fireworks explode during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games closing ceremony Sunday, Feb 24, 2002 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Fireworks explode during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games closing ceremony Sunday, Feb 24, 2002 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

Gochnour points out that aside from financial responsibility, there is an environmental stewardship. In that light, hosting a Utah Olympics would require little new construction or major road projects. The heavy lifting has already been done.

It’s unlikely that many old guard IOC members would want a return to Utah. They prefer the Olympics to be in exotic, seldom-considered places. In other words, somewhere they haven’t had their free three-week vacation.

Fireworks over Salt Lake City, Utah at the close of the 2002 Winter Olympics, Feb. 24, 2002. (TOM SMART, DESERET NEWS) Fireworks over Salt Lake City, Utah at the close of the 2002 Winter Olympics, Feb. 24, 2002. (TOM SMART, DESERET NEWS)

If the infrastructure isn't there, they have it built.

Imagine Nuuk, Greenland, in 2026.

Don’t laugh. There wasn’t much going for Sochi when it got the nod.

“A lot of cities have found this a little scary, that so much money has to be invested," Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg told The Associated Press. "People in western Europe say this is too much for us, too much investment, too difficult to run. We need to get more cities interested. It's a question of cost — as little as possible."

Sounds like a job for Utahns. We're experts at doing big things at low cost. How else do you explain “family night” discounts at the Jazz games and ward Christmas parties?

For the moment, it appears another Olympics would be a long way off for Utah. Candidate cities are already lined up through the 2022 Games. Still, if the Olympics are a beacon for the world, Salt Lake makes complete sense. It’s frugal, experienced and full of willing volunteers.

Beyond that, if you don’t count the annual inversion, Salt Lake is environmentally aligned.

What better way to save the planet than to recycle?

Email: rock@desnews.com; Twitter: @therockmonster; Blog: Rockmonster Unplugged

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