Olympic athletes, hoping their needs will be met in the race to host the 1998 Winter Olympics, gathered in Salt Lake City Hall Thursday to voice their support for the city's efforts to become the U.S. bidder for the Games.

During a City Hall press conference, former U.S. Ski Team member Jack Turner announced the formation of the Athletes Council for Utah Winter Olympic Games with a handful of current and former Olympic athletes."What is now a very small group of people we hope to be very large," he said, noting that several foreign Olympic athletes belong to the group and perhaps more will join them in the future.

The council was begun to give athletes a voice in the Olympic bidding process and support the city's efforts to secure the U.S. bid, which would allow the city to vie internationally for the Games, Turner said.

"The reason why we support this bid is because we have the best site for the Winter Olympics," he said.

Turner pointed to a lack of adequate training facilities in the nation, except for those in Lake Placid, N.Y., the 1980 Winter Olympics host, which is too inaccessible for many athletes.

"We want to establish Salt Lake City and Utah as the premier winter sports training center in the world," he said. National and international athletes will support Utah as a Winter Olympic site because of its excellent winter conditions and training facilities. Their support will translate into a successful bid to become the 1998 Winter Olympic host before the International Olympic Committee, he said.

The group wants "full voting privileges" on the city's Winter Olympic Organizing Committee, the body preparing for a June bid before the USOC, Turner said. Mike Zuhl, chief of staff for Mayor Palmer DePaulis, chief of staff, said the committee's selection process is still open.

"I think the proposal does make good sense," Zuhl said.