Salt Lake City Olympic bid organizers shouldn't waste time worrying about who's ahead in the competition for the '98 Winter Games, Anita DeFrantz, a key member of the International Olympics Committee advised Sunday.
And they shouldn't be distracted by the selection of Atlanta for the Summer Games, she added."Salt Lake City has a good, solid bid, one you can be proud of," DeFrantz told reporters during a whirlwind tour of proposed Olympic facilities and venues. "Just concentrate on presenting what you have to offer."
DeFrantz, who was on the U.S. rowing team in the 1976 Olympic Games, became a member of the IOC in 1986. She is one of only two voting IOC members from the United States. A lawyer and an articulate advocate for amateur sports, she achieved widespread notoriety in 1980 by leading the opposition to the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympics.
She arrived in Utah Saturday night and left Sunday night, receiving the usual two-day tour of bid sites in just one day. Her visit included stops at the Salt Palace, Snowbird and Park City. Also, organizers showed her Salt Lake City by helicopter, a view that was slightly marred by a valley haze.
Asked if it's true that the selection of Atlanta for the 1996 Summer Games has harmed Salt Lake City's prospects - since some IOC members may be reluctant to award both bids to one nation - DeFrantz said, "It's not so."
Atlanta and Salt Lake City bid for separate and distinct events, she said. "These are the Winter Games, the Games of ice and snow. That's what Salt Lake City has to offer."
And she noted that the distance between Atlanta and Salt Lake City is greater than the distance between Barcelona, Spain, and Albertville, France, sites of the next Summer and Winter Games. Geography is not the issue, she said.
Several Olympic bid watchers have given the early edge to Nagano, Japan, a reporter told DeFrantz. Did she agree?
"I hope people won't try to get a sense of who's ahead," she answered. "What really counts is what the IOC members write on the ballots in June."
She said that although she has yet to visit Nagano or any of the other competing cities, "I can't imagine a city having more to offer than Salt Lake City."
Her primary focus will be on how the bid cities plan to treat the athletes and what the cities will do to ensure first-rate and fair competition, she said, stressing, "The Games are for the athletes."
As a U.S. representative on the IOC, she says it is her duty to ask questions that foreign members may be too polite to ask. "Such as: Does everyone really support the bid effort?"
She said she sees her role as that of a "critical and friendly eye," adding, "My presence here is to make certain that the best of Salt Lake City is available for the athletes."
If Salt Lake City is to succeed in its bid, organizers must bring as many IOC members as possible to the state to let them see the advantages in person, DeFrantz said.
Her suggestion has long been an important part of the Salt Lake Olympic-bid strategy, with organizers hoping to give 60 of the 94 IOC members the so-called "red-carpet tour" that DeFrantz received on Sunday.