Utahns shouldn't be hanging their heads over the recent selection of Atlanta as the site for the 1996 Summer Games, both national and international sliding-sports experts said Friday.
Representatives of bobsled, luge and skeleton organizations as well as track designers studied the Summit County site this week, where supporters of Utah's Olympic bid plan to build a sliding-sports track.At a press conference called to unveil a plan for using the track year-round with a rubber-wheeled bobsled developed in Lake Placid, N.Y., they took time to reassure Utahns the state is still in the running for the 1998 Winter Games.
"Salt Lake is as much a bid contender as it ever was," said David Heim, executive director of the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Association based in Lake Placid.
Heim said there's too much "head-hanging in Utah" among those who fear Utah's chances to host the 1998 Winter Games were hurt because an American city will be the site of an Olympics just two years earlier.
Jan Steler, an architect from Marseille, France, agreed the state still has plenty to offer. "I am also very excited about the whole bid of Salt Lake City, the capacity of the facilities, the capacity of the people," he said.
Heim, Steler and other members of the design team for the sliding-sports track have been working since early Monday morning to determine the best alignment for it at the Bear Hollow site near Park City.
The track would be used for bobsled, luge and skeleton events. Bobsleds carry four riders and weigh nearly 1,400 pounds. Luges carry one rider and weigh only 235 pounds.
And skeletons, the newest addition to the sliding sports, are only about 80 pounds. Although they carry just one rider like a luge, a skeleton rider heads down a track face first instead of feet first.
The differences between the three types of equipment present some design problems, but the biggest one to overcome is how to make the track usable when there is no snow on the ground.
The solution being tested in Lake Placid is a rubber-wheeled bobsled that can carry novices for a fee to help offset operating costs for using the facility to train athletes.
In Lake Placid, 30,000 tourists paid $2 apiece just to look at a similar track, Heim said. Allowing them to actually ride down the track is expected to at least triple the number of tourists, he said.