A poker-faced U.S. Olympic Committee left Salt Lake City Sunday after inspecting proposed Olympic venues, saying Utah has much to be proud of but shedding little light on its chances of serving as host to the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Based on a weekend tour of Salt Lake City's 10 Olympic venues and visits to four other cities, the six-member Site Selection Committee will make a recommendation to the USOC in June on "America's Choice" to serve as host to the Games.Committee Chairwoman Sandy Knapp offered kudos to the Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee for a "well-executed" site inspection but said little more about how the city compares to the other cities bidding for the Olympics.
"Absent having visited all five cities, it wouldn't be appropriate," Knapp said, to compare Salt Lake City with Denver; Anchorage, Alaska; Reno-Lake Tahoe, Nev.; and Klamath Falls, Ore., all bidding for the Games.
The site-selection team leaves Salt Lake City "with a good sense of not only the human ability but the physical ability of this area to host an Olympic Games," Knapp said. "You have much to be proud of."
While Knapp declined to discuss the city's ranking, a city official speaking on condition he not be identified, said the Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee believes Salt Lake City has secured four of six Site Selection Committee votes.
Asked if the possibility of Utahns rejecting the Games in a fall referendum vote concerned the committee, Knapp said she would prefer to have a firm commitment from the city it backs in June.
"Ideally, we would like to have a guaranteed, money-in-the-bank, signed-sealed-delivered relationship when we recommend a city. I can't tell you that's necessarily going to be the case," she said.
But Knapp said she understands the purpose of the referendum vote and added, "We frankly applaud the (Salt Lake) organizing committee's efforts to make sure this is the will of the people and something they believe in."
Knapp deferred to Tom Welch, Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee chairman, when asked if the site-selection team had any specific recommendations for improving the city's bid.
"No material changes" were suggested, Welch said. But the possibility of a secondary housing site to serve speed skaters competing in Ogden, 45 miles from a planned Olympic village in Salt Lake City, was discussed, he said.
Welch, Knapp and other members of the site-selection team met with reporters Sunday after a whirlwind tour by helicopter of the city's Olympic sites. Knapp said the tour had several purposes.
The selection team must formulate a recommendation to the USOC Executive Board on "that city or those cities that we believe are most qualified to represent the United States," Knapp said.
The committee also must ensure that cities bidding for the Games will build winter sports facilities and "spread the Olympic message" throughout the nation, she said.
"We feel good about the visit," said Welch, who will lead the city's organizing committee to Des Moines, Iowa, on June 4 to learn what U.S. city will compete for the Games in 1991 before the International Olympic Committee.
Here are some important dates in the U.S. bid for the 1998 Winter Olympics:
May 2 - The USOC Site Selection Committee will complete its inspection of the five U.S. cities bidding for the Games, including Salt Lake City.
May 9 - The selection team will invite the city or cities it deems qualified to serve as host to the Olympics to bid for the Games before the USOC executive board June 4.
June 4 - The city or cities that survive the May 9 cutoff will make their 30-minute bid presentations before the USOC executive board in Des Moines, Iowa.
1991 - The final decision on which city will get the 1998 Winter Olympics will be made by the International Olympic Committee.