Tom Welch brought two bottles of champagne - one alcoholic, one non-alcoholic - to the U.S. Olympic Committee meeting that was to select the U.S. bid city for the 1998 Winter Olympics.
"If we win, I'll drink the non-alcoholic. If we lose, I don't know," the chairman of the Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee said.Sunday afternoon, Welch was drinking the un-champagne. The ruddy glow in his cheeks came from the thrill of victory after the USOC gave Utah the nod.
Meeting in Des Moines, the USOC settled on Salt Lake City over Anchorage, Alaska; Denver; and Reno-Lake Tahoe, Nev., to take the nation's bid for the Games to the International Olympic Committee in June 1991 in Birmingham, England.
After a weekend of lobbying by bid cities, USOC President Robert Helmick announced at 2 p.m. Sunday that Salt Lake City was chosen by a majority vote to bid for the Games.
The USOC's 93-member executive board came to a decision after two ballots, the first of which eliminated Denver.
Welch and a euphoric delegation of Salt Lake organizers whooped and hugged each other, while some broke into tears, following the announcement inside a meeting room in a downtown Des Moines hotel.
"We are grateful for the opportunity, we're grateful for the challenge," Welch told the USOC immediately following the vote.
"We recognize that this is not an end but rather a beginning. We pledge to you that we will take this sacred trust and go forward and represent . . . the country . . . and bring back the gold," he said.
Gleeful boosters had little time to bask in the glow of Des Moines, however. On Monday morning they were already turning their attention to another task: winning over Utah voters who will face an Olympics question on a November referendum that must be passed before public money can be spent on Olympics facilities.
Utah Olympics support hovers around 70 percent but drops when the question of public funding is raised. USOC, Salt Lake City and Utah officials are optimistic the referendum will pass.
"We have every confidence that that (referendum) will be approved by the community," Gov. Norm Bangerter said in Des Moines, adding that the referendum question would include reference to public funding.
"Our job now is to go out and educate the people," Welch said, adding he's confident of public support for the Games.
The campaign on the Olympics question will possibly by fronted by a yet-to-be formed organization similar to Tax Payers for Utah, which worked to defeat the 1988 tax initiatives, said Mike Zuhl, chief of staff to Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis.
"This is an effort that must involve the community. . . . If we fail to involve the leadership of the state and the people at large, we run the risk of losing the support of the people," he said.
"No one wants to repeat the experience of Denver in 1972," Zuhl said. Denver rejected public funding of the Games then and killed the state's 1976 Olympic dreams.
If Utah dumps the Olympics, as Denver did, the USOC has no contingency plans. "We'll meet each difficulty and challenge as it comes along," Helmick said.
But Helmick also expressed the USOC's confidence in Utah's referendum process and said the possibility of defeating the Olympics did not weigh against the state in bid process.
"I think also it is excellent planning to plan a referendum," he said.
Utah secured the bid because it put forward the firmest commitment for pre- and post-Olympic development of Olympic training facilities, Helmick said. Salt Lake City has budgeted $40 million to build three Olympic facilities.
The USOC is requiring that a bobsled-luge run, ski jump and speed-skating rink be under construction within 18 months, if Utah voters pass an Olympics referendum in the fall.
Salt Lake City has already made strides in promoting amateur sports, Helmick said. The city hosted the 1988 U.S. Gymnastics Team Olympics tryouts, for example. That commitment sold many USOC delegates on Utah.
"It isn't just winning the Games, it is doing what they've done for amateur athletics," Michael Plant said of Salt Lake City. Plant is a USOC member and chairman of the USOC's athletes advisory council.
Welch pointed to a "level of trust" forged between Salt Lake organizers and the USOC as the key reason the city secured the bid. Salt Lake City offered the USOC the most believable package for facilities development, an important issue in the USOC, he said.
Two key endorsements played a role in helping Salt Lake City win the Olympic bid. The USOC's site selection team, which visited Salt Lake City in April, favored Utah above the other contenders.
Additionally Plant - considered influential on the USOC because of his representation of athletes - spoke in favor of the city behind closed doors prior to the final vote.
"I told them that four years ago Salt Lake City wondered why they didn't get the bid and they've been working hard ever since," Plant said.
One group, however, did not back the city or collectively support any city. The Winter Sports National Governing Body Council never could reach a consensus.
The USOC looks to winter NGBs, which organize and promote winter Olympics sports, for direction when considering cities bidding to host the Games.
Anchorage, which has strong ties to the USOC, posed the greatest threat to Utah's bid for the Games since Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis announced last Nov. 14 the city would place a bid.
Anchorage placed two bids with the IOC but will not make a third in this century. That's guaranteed, because the USOC approved a measure promising Salt Lake City a second USOC bid if the city loses the 1991 IOC bid.
Denver also carried a strong bid, enhanced by an offer of a $14 million NBC-TV advertising campaign to raise money for the USOC. But Denver was eliminated on the first vote in part because of the dispersed nature of its venues, Helmick said. Some Colorado Olympics sites are 166 miles from Denver.
While Salt Lake organizers work to educate Utahns before the referendum, they must also work to impress the IOC with their ability to hold an Olympics. One IOC representative said that is a difficult prospect for a city new to the IOC process.
"It's very important to build a relationship of trust, and it takes time to do that," said IOC representative Anita DeFrantz.
Cooperation from Anchorage, which has been before the IOC twice, will help Salt Lake City shorten the learning curve. Welch said he believes Anchorage will share information, which one Anchorage organizer valued at $3 million, with Utah organizers.
"I'll have to think about that," said Rick Mystrom, of the Anchorage Organizing Committee, saying it had been an emotional bidding process.
Recipe for success
After making an unsuccessful bid before the U.S. Olympic Committee in 1985, local Olympic boosters went back to the drawing board. After four years of planning and politicking, they produced a winning game plan in Des Moines on Sunday. Here are several things that helped convince USOC voters that Salt Lake City is, indeed, the place.
- Strongest commitment of bid cities to build sports facilities, including $56 million public finance plan.
- Key endorsement from USOC's site-selection team.
- Key endorsement from chairman of USOC's Athlete's Advisory Board.
- Expression of congressional support from Sens. Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch, both R-Utah.
- Olympic venues close to Salt Lake City.
- Good education and job opportunities for Olympic athletes wanting to train in Utah.
- Frequent experience hosting amateur athletic events