A poor showing by U.S athletes at the last Winter Olympics and the attitude of Anchorage officials may be the right combination for Salt Lake City to snare the bid to host the 1998 Games, according to one Utah official.
The U.S. committee announced Saturday it would select one city as the nation's choice for the 1998 Winter Olympics during a spring 1989 meeting, said Henry Marsh, chairman of the Athletes Advisory Committee to the USOC.The International Olympic Committee will meet in a spring 1991 meeting to name the host city, Marsh said in a telephone interview from Minneapolis.
Mike Zuhl, chief of staff to Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis, also was attending the U.S. Olympic Committee meeting in Minnesota. "We've got roughly six months, if we are going to move forward for the bid, we have to move very quickly," Zuhl said.
The committee broke tradition by opening up bidding to cities other than Anchorage.
"Heretofore, Anchorage has been our representative two times. But then the last time, USOC announced it would open the bidding process," Marsh said. "And I feel like Salt Lake now has the inside track.
"The first reason is, during the past four years when Anchorage has been our representative, Salt Lake has been lobbying very effectively, principally through our amateur sports foundation, to get events."
Those events have included the U.S. Gymnastic trials, national volleyball championships and World Cup skiing, Marsh said. Salt Lake hosting such events means "bolstering credibility when we run an event well. And we have."
"The second real important factor in why Salt Lake has the edge is the sentiment I get from the executive board," Marsh said. "After the Calgary Olympics, there was an uproar over why our athletes didn't do well."
Part of the reason was lack of training facilities in the United States, he said.
"Why don't we have more? It's very expensive. The only way you can justify the cost is to host the Olympic Games and use the economic revenue from the Games to build the facilities," said Marsh, who also is a member of the USOC administrative committee.
"The sentiment is we need it in the continental U.S., so we need to go with Salt Lake instead of Anchorage because we need those facilities built where we can utilize them."
Salt Lake City must first beat out Anchorage; Reno-Lake Tahoe, Nev., and Lake Placid, N. Y., before it can compete internationally for the Games, which could bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to the state.
The U.S. committee traditionally backs the city that failed in its last bid for the Games, in this case the 1994 Winter Olympics, Zuhl said. Anchorage failed at a U.S. bid for the Games and is again considered a contender for the 1998 Games.
"Anchorage has not put anything back into the sports," Marsh said. "They have not been hosting events, they haven't built any facilities. The sentiment I'm getting here is that Anchorage forgot who sent them there."
While Salt Lake City is in a good position, Marsh said the community needs to put allegations of mismanagement surrounding the amateur sports foundation that draws competitions to Utah.
The effort to have the Games in Utah is "going to take everyone's support and cooperation," he said, to bring the Olympics which will have "unbelievably tremendous rewards for the people of Salt Lake and Salt Lake City."