Salt Lake City solicited some important allies Friday in courting foreign diplomats to support its bid for the 1998 Winter Olympics: Secretary of State James Baker III and the entire U.S. diplomatic corps.
Baker, at the request of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, sent telegrams to 68 ambassadors from Ulan Bator, Mongolia, to Rabat, Morocco, telling them he and President Bush want them to help Salt Lake City."I want you to know that both the president and I fully and actively support Salt Lake's effort to bring the 1998 Winter Games to the United States," Baker cabled.
"The successful Atlanta bid (to host the 1996 Summer Games) showed the importance of active involvement in a bid city's efforts by our posts and particularly our ambassadors."
He added, "The visible demonstration to IOC (International Olympic Committee) members of the support of the U.S. government for Atlanta was crucial to their victory. We must do the same for Salt Lake which, in spite of clearly superior facilities and infrastructure, faces an uphill battle due to Atlanta's selection for the 1996 Games."
Baker also told ambassadors to give the matter "high priority" and said he expected to see reports about their efforts to help Salt Lake City.
Hatch, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which oversees Baker and the State Department, was ecstatic about the help that Baker is giving - and said it is especially needed because Atlanta is hosting an Olympics just two years before the one Salt Lake City wants to host.
"But on the other hand, everybody knows we have the best facilities, we have the best ski slopes, we have the best capacity to put on the Winter Olympics like never before," Hatch said. "I think there's a reasonable chance we can get them. But it will take a lot of effort. And of course it costs a lot of money."
He added, "It's worth it, because even if we didn't get it in this time frame, there's no question we would get it in the future."
Salt Lake City is competing against Nagano, Japan; Sochi, Soviet Union; Aosta, Italy; Jaca, Spain; and Ostersund, Sweden.
Selection will take place in June at an IOC meeting in Birmingham, England.
Showing Baker may be conceding no ground anywhere, he even sent cables to U.S. ambassadors to countries competing against Salt Lake City asking for help.