The bid that Utah Olympic officials are putting in the hands of International Olympic Committee members Tuesday will be for a 1998 Winter Games costing twice as much as voters were told before last year's referendum.
That apparently is because the amount of money the state can expect from television networks and corporations anxious to attach their names to the 1998 Olympic Winter Games is much higher than previously expected.Before leaving for the meeting with members of the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland, Salt Lake Olympic Bid Committee Chairman Tom Welch confirmed that the bid is for between $750 million and $800 million.
Voters in 1989 approved a referendum on the ballot to spend $56 million in tax dollars to prepare for the Olympics, after being told the Winter Games would carry a price tag of about $400 million.
Welch won't say yet exactly what in the past year has made the 1998 Winter Games appear so much more lucrative, although he did say in Toyko he expected $500 million in television revenues alone.
While $800 million is a lot more than voters were told the Winter Games would cost, Welch told the international media at an IOC meeting in Tokyo last month the price tag would be in excess of $900 million.
The difference between the tax dollars and the actual cost of hosting the Winter Games has always been expected to be made up mostly through revenues from the sale of both broadcast rights and corporate sponsorships.
Now, according to Welch, the amount of money the state can expect from television networks and corporations anxious to attach their names to a Winter Games is much higher.
Welch won't give an explanation in Utah of where the money is coming from until the bid document is made public during a press conference scheduled for Nov. 12.
The bid can be kept secret because it was prepared using donated funds, including $400,000 from the Eccles family foundation of First Security Bank, according to Welch. The Bid Committee itself is privately funded.
The reason for keeping the bid under wraps, the Olympic boosters say, is to prevent Salt Lake City's competition - Aosta, Italy; Nagano, Japan; Oestersund, Sweden; Jaca, Spain; and Sochi, USSR - from finding out what's in it.
But Welch and other Olympic boosters have promised their budget will remain flexible, even after the IOC accepts the bid and even if Salt Lake City is named host of the Winter Games when the IOC makes its choice next spring.
The bottom line, Welch insists, is that the state's Olympic organizers will spend only as much as they can sell the broadcasting and advertising rights to the Winter Games for and no more.
"Our Games have always committed to be income-driven, and our budgets are continuing to change and be refined as financial and dollars commitments are made," he said.
And because the host city of an Olympics must split any profit with the IOC, Welch says it only makes sense to spend as much of the anticipated revenue before the Winter Games as possible.
"We could put the Games on for the initial budget. We could even put them on for less. But we ought to have a plan to spend additional dollars if they come in," he said.
Although Welch says most of the additional revenue expected would be put into upgrading the proposed Olympic facilities, which would also be used for other athletic competitions, he declines to detail those plans, too.
There are critics to Welch's budgeting approach. Questions have also been raised about the bid by at least one member of the Utah Sports Authority, the group responsible for overseeing how the $56 million in tax dollars is spent.
Not surprisingly, the criticism is coming from members of Utahns for Responsible Spending, which organized last year to oppose the Olympic Referendum. "They're telling everybody what they think is politically expedient," said Stephen Pace, a Salt Lake-based financial consultant who sits on the board of Utahns for Responsible Spending.
Another board member, David Owen, said the strategy has been to "tell the taxpayers what they want to hear. Then you turn around and tell the Olympic Committee what it wants to hear. Then you do what you want to do anyway."
Owen, marketing director for a local company that makes trade-show exhibits, said taxpayers are ultimately responsible for any losses incurred by the Winter Games. "It's the taxpayer who signs on the bottom line," he said.
Members of the Utah Sports Authority are concerned about a more pressing bottom line. At a recent meeting, the question of just who is responsible for living up to the figures in the bid was raised.
Sports Authority member Allan Lipman expressed concern over not reviewing the bid before it was submitted. "I don't want any commitments made that bind the Sports Authority," Lipman said.
His comments came after Sports Authority members were told they would not see the bid until their Nov. 13 meeting, two weeks after the presentation to the IOC.
Olympic Bid Committee member Neil Richardson, who is in Switzerland with Welch, assured the Sports Authority members that they aren't the only ones who haven't seen the bid.
"The IOC wants to know who will make the most money. That's why it's being kept so quiet," Richardson said.
The bid was described as "our best estimate at this point of where things are heading" and "version number one" of the Winter Games budget by state Director of Finance Gordon Crabtree, advisor to the Sports Authority.
The issue of who bears responsibility for meeting the requirements set out in the bid will likely not be settled unless the city is selected to host the Winter Games and an organizing committee needs to be created to deal with the IOC.
Although no one involved is ready to talk publicly about what would be the Bid Committee's replacement, discussions are already under way among state leaders and others about making the new organization more accountable.