Almost two-thirds of Utahns support efforts to bring the Winter Olympics to Utah even if it means losing a bid for the 1998 Winter Games and waiting until 2002 for the granddaddy of sporting events, the latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows.
Even with recent announcement that Atlanta has been selected as the site of the 1996 Summer Games - a fact that some say may hinder Utah's chances for the 1998 Olympics - public support for the Olympics bid remains near that found in a pre-election poll last November.Support registered in the new survey was greater than that found among voters who passed a referendum to spend $56 million on winter sports facilities. Voters cast ballots 57 percent to 43 percent in favor of the referendum. The new poll shows 61 percent of the respondents favor continuing Olympic bid efforts.
Pollster Dan Jones & Associates surveyed 900 people, asking them whether Utah Olympic organizers should continue with their bid for the 1998 Games despite the decision by the International Olympic Committee to select another American city, Atlanta, for the Summer Games only two years earlier.
Jones found that 42 percent said that officials should definitely continue to pursue the Games, 19 percent said they probably should, 12 percent said they should probably not and 24 percent said they should definitely not. Three percent said they didn't know.
When asked if officials should continue to pursue the Winter Olympics bid for 2002 if the International Olympic Committee doesn't choose Utah for the 1998 Winter Games, an identical percentage of respondents supported the bid, although fewer said officials "definitely should" continue their efforts.
Compared with results of a similar poll just before last November's Olympic ballot referendum, support for the Olympics has dropped slightly. At that time, 67 percent either strongly or somewhat favored bringing the Olympics to Utah, compared with 61 percent in the recent poll.
However, the difference now is that more people have an opinion about the issue. Last year, 26 percent opposed the Olympics and 7 percent didn't know. Now, 36 percent oppose the Olympics and 3 percent don't know.
The IOC will meet next June in Birmingham, England, to decide which of six cities will be awarded the 1998 Winter Olympics. Salt Lake City is competing with Aosta,Italy; Jaca, Spain; Nagano, Japan; Oestersund, Sweden; and Sochi, USSR, for the bid.
Since the Atlanta decision, made in Tokyo last month, officials with competitor cities agree that Nagano, Japan, is the city to beat.
At the same time, Salt Lake Olympic officials have retooled the pitch for their bid and say they are stronger for the Atlanta decision. They now will focus on the technical strengths of the Utah bid and the fact that staging an Olympics here could help bring broader exposure of winter sports to the Western Hemisphere.
If Salt Lake City looses the 1998 bid, it still has the right to pursue the 2002 Games under a contract with the U.S. Olympic Committee.
In a related question, Jones also gauged public opinion about whether the state should continue to spend $56 million to build winter sports facilities, including a bobsled-luge run and ski jumps in Summit County, a speed-skating oval in Salt Lake City and an ice skating rink in Ogden.
Half of those surveyed said that the state should still build the facilities. Thirty-nine percent said that the Legislature should withdraw funding, knowing the cut in funds would end Utah's bid for the Olympics. Ten percent of the respondents said they didn't know.
In the past month, state officials said they would go ahead with plans to build facilities to help develop a Western U.S. winter sports center, with or without a two-week Olympic extravaganza.
The International Olympic Committee recently picked Atlanta as the site of the 1996 Summer Games. Should Utah still pursue the 1998 Winter Games?
Probably Should 19%
Definitely Should 42%
Probably Should not 12%
Definitely Should not 24%
Don't know 3%
If Utah is not chosen for the 1998 Winter Games, should officials continue the effort to be chosen for the 2002 Games?
Probably should 22%
Definitely should 39%
Probably should not 10%
Definitely should not 23%
Don't know 5%