Utah and Canadian officials differ by $52 million over just how much Calgary, Canada, enjoyed in surplus Winter Olympics revenue and one Utah Olympics critic says the difference is an example of "boosterism gone berserk."
"Current estimates are that the Calgary Olympics will end up with a surplus of about $84 million," Brad Barber, state director of economic and demographic analysis, wrote for the city's Olympics organizing committee.But officials of the Canadian Olympics, reporting in the 15th Olympic Winter Games Official Report, post the surplus for the 1988 Winter Olympics held in Calgary at $32 million, a difference of $52 million.
Overzealous promotion to sell the 1998 Winter Olympics to Utah citizens before the city's U.S. Olympic Committee bid this June account for the difference between the figures, said longtime Olympics critic Alexis Kelner.
"I think it's overenthusiasm. I don't think it's dishonesty," Kelner said. I think a lot of it is boosterism gone berserk."
The $34 million surplus figure is the actual surplus of the Calgary games after an endowment from Olympic revenue was made to two Olympic groups, said Rod Love, executive assistant to Calgary Mayor Ralph Klein.
But Barber said it doesn't matter what the figure is, because the reason for relying on the statistic is to point out a Salt Lake Winter Olympics can make money to the benefit of taxpayers.
"I don't think it matters - the number is irrelevant because there's no way we can say we're going to make $84 million in Utah or $32 million in Utah," Barber said. "The point is, Calgary didn't lose money."
Furthermore, Barber said that in quoting the $84 million surplus, which he got from a USOC newsletter, he expected the net surplus would be less after endowments were made to Olympic associations.
"I assumed the $84 million would go into the endowment," he said.
Love said the $84 million surplus was accurate before some of the surplus was spent on endowments for the Calgary Olympic Development Association and the Canadian Olympic Association.
Barber said every effort is being made to portray the city's Olympics bid, being constructed in near daily meetings of the city's Olympic organizing committee, as accurately as possible.
"The last thing we want is Alexis Kelner to think we're trying to do something that isn't up front," he said. "We're just trying to pre-sent the information as we get it; that's not to say we're caught up in Olympic fever."
Kelner stressed that he doesn't believe Olympic backers are being intentionally misleading. "They've just brainwashed them selves," he said.
Additionally, the positive economic impact of the Olympics represented by Olympic backers based on Calgary's experience is overestimated because of a $200 million Canadian government contribution to the games, Kelner said.
The Alberta provincial government contributed another $130 million and the city of Calgary gave $43 to the games, the official Olympic report said.
Although some of those millions went to non-Olympic expenditures, some went to constructing a ski jump and a bobsled run, Love said. Barber admitted that Utah likely could not expect similar government support for the games.
"We have to go into this not assuming that we're getting a big handout," Barber said. "We'll use public money much more carefully because we have less to begin with and we have lesser needs."
If Salt Lake City wins the U.S. bid for the games - outcompeting five other cities - the city will take its bid before the International Olympic Committee who will make the final choice of who will host the 1998 Winter Olympics.