Responding to questions about the Utah Senate's passage of an Olympics funding mechanism bill, U.S. Olympic Committee Pres. Robert Helmick said any city with funding for the Games would have an "advantage" in the bidding process.

At a press conference Friday, Helmick said candidate cities bidding for the games must finance and build a speed skating rink and bobsled run within 18 months of being selected "America's Choice" for the Games.The requirement was passed in a USOC meeting last December and is considered to be a measure designed to elicit firm support for Olympic facilities, which U.S. Olympic athletes say the nation sorely lacks and Helmick called a "tragic" problem.

"So a city that has some support and can show that plan is going to have an advantage," he said.

Asked if other cities have shown a financial commitment to the extent that Utah has, Helmick said "no formal commitment has been made by any city. That really is not necessary for them to make that

The requirement was passed in a USOC meeting last December and is considered to be a measure designed to elicit firm support for Olympic facilities, which U.S. Olympic athletes say the nation sorely lacks and Helmick called a "tragic" problem.

"So a city that has some support and can show that plan is going to have an advantage," he said.

Asked if other cities have shown a financial commitment to the extent that Utah has, Helmick said "no formal commitment has been made by any city. That really is not necessary for them to make that until they make their bid . . . in June."

The bill, HB374, would dedicate $4 million a year in state and local sales tax funds to build the facilities in the state, committing 1/64th of sales tax collected by the city and state to pay for the facilities.

In a recent Deseret News/KSL News poll, 52 percent of those polled by Dan Jones & and Associates said they were willing to commit public money to the Olympics effort.

Other bidding cities, such as Denver and Reno-Lake Tahoe, Nev., have pledged to pay for the games with private money. Helmick said whether the Games are privately or publicly funded is irrelevant.

Fred Fisher, executive director of the Denver/Colorado Winter Games Committee, said the funding mechanism helps make Salt Lake City a "very strong" Olympics candidate. He said Denver would commit only private funds.

Most of the money would come from corporate donations and from foundations and universities, he said.

Salt Lake Olympics backers have questioned how Denver can fund the Games privately, and even Fisher said he was unsure how realistic it is for Denver to foot the Olympic bill privately.

"I can't tell you how realistic it is. But that's our goal. . . . If we can't do it, we're going to pack up our bags and go," he said.

Denver once won the USOC bid for the games in 1972, but in a referendum much like the one scheduled in Utah for next fall voted to not host the Games, before the International Olympic Committee voted to select the actual Olympics host.

In another press conference Friday, IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, Spain, said that Denver's rejection of the games more than 10 years ago would not prejudice that city in the eyes of the IOC.

Other cities bidding before the USOC for the Games include Anchorage, Alaska; Lake Placid, N.Y.; Reno-Lake Tahoe, Nev.; and Klamath Falls, Ore.