The committee responsible for recommending to the U.S. Olympic Committee which city should be the nation's choice to host the 1998 Winter Olympics will visit Salt Lake City this weekend.
The USOC's six-member Site Selection Committee will arrive Friday and spend Saturday studying the city's Olympic bid and winter sports venues on a tour led by officials of the Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee.The site-selection committee has already visited three other cities and will arrive in Utah after reviewing venues in Anchorage, Alaska, prompting Organizing Committee Chairman Tom Welch to compare the two cities.
"All I can tell you is that there's snow in the (Wasatch) mountains and today they're in Anchorage, and it's raining," he told the Utah Taxpayers Association Thursday.
Following the committee's visits, it will make a recommendation on "America's Choice" for the Games to voting members of the USOC, who will vote June 4 on what city will bid before the International Olympic Committee.
The committee will visit venues in a 40-mile radius of Salt Lake City, including downhill skiing at Snow Basin near Ogden, slalom skiing in Park City and ski-jumping in Summit County.
"I think the proposition which we'll put before the Olympic Committee is that what we're offering is not just the Olympic Games but . . . the development of an entire winter sports program," Welch said.
USOC members have said the nation's Olympic athletes are in dire need of winter sports facilities for training aspiring Olympians.
The city's commitment to winter sports "separates us from every other community that's bidding," he added.
Other cities bidding are Anchorage, Denver, Klamath Falls, Ore.; and Reno-Tahoe, Nev.
Taxpayers told Games will pay off
Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee Chairman Tom Welch, delcaring "I am a taxpayer," told the Utah Taxpayers Association Thursday the city can play host to the 1998 Winter Games with "no long-term cost to the taxpayer."
Although the Legislature passed a law this year committing $4 million yearly in sales tax to building winter sports facilities, that public money will be repaid "dollar for dollar," Welch assured the association.
Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis added his confidence the Games would be a moneymaker. "I believe we do not have to be concerned . . . about the monetary side. I believe we have a better chance of making money."
Welch told the group the city's organizing committee has drafted a budget bearing a $50 million surplus if the city actually hosts the games. The budget includes making repayments for use of public money.
While assuring the group the profitability of the games will protect taxpayers from liability, Welch also said the Olympics are an opportunity to confront economic challenges faced by the city and the state.
"We don't represent that the Olympics are the answer to all the challenges we face. But we do suggest that they are a portion of it," Welch said.
The Olympics are a "driving force" to developing the state as a center for winter sports, which will bring people to Utah and ultimately pay for the facilities, he said.
Critics who charge the Olympics is a no-win proposition are relying on experiences from the 1950s and '60s when host cities could not expect to enjoy the $300 million TV contracts now associated with the Games.
What's more, Salt Lake City has most of the winter sports facilities needed for the games already existing. Welch said the city must spend only $40 million to build a ski-jump, bobsled-luge run and speed-skating oval.