After the International Olympic Committee chose Atlanta to host the 1996 Summer Games, Utah Olympic boss Tom Welch started wearing eyeglasses.
"The reason I am wearing glasses is I see more clearly now," he said, joking about the IOC's Atlanta decision - a decision some say has dashed Utah's Olympic dreams.But the bespectacled Welch believes to dismiss Utah's chances is shortsighted. Instead, he has set his sights on Birmingham, England - the location for the next and most decisive round in the Olympic sweepstakes.
For he and other local Olympic boosters, the lesson learned long ago is that the road to victory in Birmingham is not for the faint-hearted or the myopic - and certainly not for the tight-fisted.
In June, seven months from now, IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch will approach a microphone in Birmingham, open a sealed envelope, and read a slip of paper. On it will be the name of the city chosen by members of the IOC to host the 1998 Winter Olympics.
The decision will come as delegations from Salt Lake City and competitors Nagano, Japan; Oestersund, Sweden; Aosta, Italy; Jaca, Spain and Sochi, USSR converge on Birmingham. Along with lobbying IOC members for votes, there will be a gala symphony concert, receptions and a ceremony with Queen Elizabeth.
For Olympic bid committee workers in Suite 304 of the IBM Building in downtown Salt Lake City, the strategy to get their city selected in England is keeping Georgia off the minds of IOC members and keep them from thinking of the criticism that followed the committee's decision in September in Tokyo.
"The response was the International Olympic Committee had sold out to commercialism - Coca-Cola (whose international headquarters are in Atlanta) had bought the Games. In Greece they were out in the streets pouring cans of Coke down the gutter," Welch said.
"The single biggest hurdle we have to overcome is the sensitivity of the International Olympic Committee" to charges of commercialism, Welch said.
With the Atlanta criticism in mind, Utah's Olympic organizers are making sure Salt Lake City is promising more than mere profits. Their first approach is to remind IOC members that they selected Atlanta because of the technical superiority of the southern city's bid.
While technical superiority has not always been the quirky IOC's first reason for selecting a bid city, the Atlanta selection over sentimental favorite Athens shows a new majority who may choose what's best for sports over emotion and tradition, Utah Olympic boosters say.
A key part of the strategy is ratings given the city by an IOC Evaluation Committee. The committee makes an on-site visit to Utah in mid-January. Salt Lake Olympic boosters believe that Utah's roads, hotels and venues - which are already funded and in the design stages - will get the highest recommendation from the committee.
In choosing Atlanta, "they selected the best city at a very difficult time and difficult set of circumstances. If they can bring that perception into their own minds, in the international press and international community, it will be easier for them to make that decision again. That's what we have to help make happen," Welch said.
One way they hope to help is by showing the exposure they say only Utah could give to the Winter Games and the last Olympics of the century. That exposure would come in two ways - television and training.
The bid committee says that Salt Lake City is the only competitor uniquely situated to broadcast live to all continents of the world during 16 days in February 1998. This ability would boost a broadcast contract. In its bid book, released last week, Salt Lake City says it expects to earn $319 million from a broadcast contract.
In a much broader sense, Utah could become a winter sports training center for North and South American, thus expanding these sports where there is currently little participation.
While they certainly don't bring it up first, Salt Lake organizers still want to mention the value of bringing the Olympics to Utah, especially after what they call a "marketing problem" with the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. With the selection of non-U.S. city for the 1998 Winter Games, there wouldn't be any marketing for those games in the United States until after 1996, because of exclusive marketing rights held by the United States Olympic Committee for the Atlanta Games.
Through the United States Olympic Committee, Salt Lake City is proposing a joint marketing plan with Atlanta. It would create an unprecedented level of financial support for the Winter Games, Welch says.
"Seventy-two percent of the funding for the IOC comes from the U.S . . . It would create a new standard of value," Welch said.
These messages, according to Welch, will have to be delivered with a personal touch and capture the imagination of some 40 IOC members when they visit Salt Lake City.
"In hindsight, things were going too well for us. We may have made a mistake when we ran a good, general media-type campaign. We're not going to be able to do that. We are going to have to go, one by one, to members of the International Olympic Committee and get them to the point that they see Salt Lake City offers more to sport than anybody else," he said.
Organizers hope to get 60 of the current 94 IOC members to Utah before June. Currently, 35 have already committed to come to Utah - 25 with a firm date. They say the personal visits here are the best hope for votes in Birmingham.
MILESTONES ON THE ROAD TO BIRMINGHAM
U.S. Olympic Committee casts aside Anchorage and votes to support Salt Lake City's bid for the 1998 or 2002 Winter Games.
Voters approve spending $56 million in projected sales tax revenues to build Olympic venues.
Atlanta chosen as site for 1996 Summer Games, putting damper on Salt Lake's hopes.
Oct. 30, 1990
The Salt Lake Bid Committee delivers its slick and glossy bid book in saddlebags to Chateau Vidy, International Olympic Committee headquarters at Lausanne, Switzerland.
Nov. 1, 1990
The Salt Lake Bid Committee announces its plans for a $749 million Games budget.
Nov. 12, 1990
Salt Lake Bid Committee begins hand delivering the city's bid book to IOC members in South and Central America.
IOC evaluation committee's visits Salt Lake City. The committees decision weighs heavily in the final decision.
IOC members will visit Salt Lake City. The bid committee anticipates 40 members to visit and hopes to get 60 to Utah before they vote in Birmingham.
Late April 1991
IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch will visit Salt Lake City and participate in groundbreaking of Olympic venues and other official events.
June 15, 1991
The IOC decides between Salt Lake City and five other cities for the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Birmingham, England.