Salt Lake City's bid for the final Winter Olympics of the century is taking a new focus - expanding winter sports participation in the Western Hemisphere through a Utah training center, says the chairman of the Salt Lake Olympic Bid Committee.
Tom Welch - speaking to the bid committee's board of trustees for the first time since Atlanta was selected by the International Olympic Committee as the the site for the 1996 Summer Games - announced the new strategy in light of the Atlanta selection."My life flashed before me as President (Juan Antonio) Samaranch announced the winner was Atlanta," Welch said Thursday night about the announcement last month in Tokyo.
Welch said that Salt Lake City's bid, more than any other, will expand the Games to the widest possible audience, promote the greatest growth for winter sports and create "a standard of excellence" for the Winter Games as they begin a separate four-year cycle apart from the Summer Games in 1998.
Welch said that the Winter Games would serve as a catalyst to create a winter sports training center in Utah, where not only the United States but Central and South American teams could live, train, work and go to school. A Utah Olympics would spread winter sports into areas with traditionally low participation in the Winter Games.
Welch presented the board with a draft position paper which said, "Largely because of the lack of facilities, winter sport has not developed in the Western Hemisphere to its potential. The holding of the 18th Winter Games in Salt Lake City will not only provide the largest attended, most exposed Winter Games ever held, but will provide the opportunity to have their vision enlarged and the ability to become actively involved in winter sport."
Welch explained that the International Olympic Committee's selection of Atlanta, which some say has hampered Salt Lake City's chances to snag the Games, may be a cloud with a silver lining. It forced Salt Lake Bid Committee officials to find the focus they said they were lacking at the Tokyo meeting, where the Altanta decision was made.
He said that the Atlanta decision set a precedent that showed pragmatists can now out-vote traditionalists on the IOC. Despite the traditionalists' sentiment in favor of Athens and a centennial games in the city, they voted for the city that was best from a technical point of view and one that could generate the most money for the Olympic Movement.
That statement echoed one made earlier this week by Salt Lake City Mayor Palmer DePaulis, who said that after attending the Tokyo meetings, he didn't believe the Atlanta decision has hindered Salt Lake City's chances for the 1998 Winter Games.
Welch said that of the 1998 candidates, Salt Lake City can also do the most to make money for the Olympics, particularly through television revenues.
Welch said that Salt Lake City will have the best technical bid and, like Altanta, wants to be given top technical rating by an IOC subcommittee before the IOC makes its final decision next June in Birmingham, England.
Salt Lake City is competing against Nagano, Japan; Oestersund, Sweden; Sochi, USSR; Aosta, Italy; and Jaca, Spain.