With only about 50 days left before the International Olympics Committee makes its decision on a site for the 1998 Winter Olympics, Utah is in the final stages of what has been a well-coordinated, admirably supported effort to be chosen as host for the prestigious games.
In preparation for the vote by the 92-member Olympics Committee, the 11-year president of the international group, Juan Antonio Samaranch of Barcelona, Spain, will be in Salt Lake City this weekend for his first visit. Some 45 other members of the committee have already been to the state on official tours.Utah welcomes President Samaranch, wishing him a pleasant stay and a productive and informative visit. Many other committee members have indicated they were deeply impressed by what the area has to offer for the Winter Games. Perhaps another 15 committee members may still visit Utah before the June 15 vote in Birmingham, England.
Community support for the Olympics has been impressive, including a public referendum and the effort to raise $4.6 million from private sources to support the Utah Olympic Bid Committee's efforts to secure the games. So far, the committee has raised $3.9 million and has another $700,000 to go. That is an outstanding effort, considering the fact that Utah does not have a lot of large corporations with big dollars to donate.
But throughout, Utah has always done what it has needed to do in the Olympics bid. Construction will begin in May on some of the facilities needed for the games. Even if the games go elsewhere for 1998, those facilities - including ski jumps, luge runs and ice-skating ovals - will form the basis for winter sport training facilities that could be the best in the United States for future Olympians.
The U.S. Ski Team has moved its operations to Utah and other sports federations that sponsor Olympic teams may follow to take advantage of the unparalleled winter sports facilities that will exist - Olympics or no Olympics.
As the International Olympics Committee ponders potential sites, the Utah bid offers an unequaled experience for the athletes who would come to the games from all over the world. Salt Lake City offers ease of transportation, closeness to a major downtown area, and housing facilities that would bring athletes together in a way that has not been possible anywhere else.
And bringing the athletes together so they can mingle and share experiences is one of the fundamental stated goals of the Olympic games.
As far as being good for the Olympics itself, Salt Lake City is the only city in the running for the games that has the infrastructure and media accommodations already in place to bring the Olympic event to the rest of the world.
Utahns should pull together in the final weeks before the IOC decision, raise the rest of the private funds needed to underwrite the bid, and give the world the chance to see and learn about the state's natural wonders, its people and its magnificent winter sports potential.