I recently watched the closing ceremonies from the Nagano Winter Olympic Games that included SLOC's Old West shootout complete with cowboys on wild horses riding under what appeared to be a giant bratwurst, although I think it was supposed to represent Delicate Arch. Now it's our turn to host the Games.
With the upcoming 2002 Olympics, the next four years should be a particularly interesting time in Utah. Much has been said recently about how we can actually pay for this 17-day event without additional public funding sources. We continue to hear prom-ises that additional tax dollars won't be used, but I find this hard to believe.SLOC tells us it doesn't need additional public funds beyond the $59 million borrowed to build many of the venues. However, Olympic organizers recently warned that their lean budget does put us in jeopardy of being known as the "cheap" Olymp-ics. Talk about creating a guilt trip in a state where there is already plenty to go around. But, credit SLOC, it appears the guilt trip is already paying dividends.
Gov. Mike Leavitt hurried home from Nagano to promise that additional tax dollars won't be used to directly fund SLOC, but he did mention that state tax dollars will be used for Olympic projects related to "economic development and tourism." Does this mean the state might quietly assume some of SLOC's responsibilities to avoid directly funding them? At the very least, be ready for the terms "economic development" and "tourism" to be defined very broadly in the next four years.
Now, I read that Rep. Cook and Sen. Bennett want the federal government to kick in more dollars for our Games. A state official recently justified the use of tax dollars for Earl Holding's new road to Snow Basin by saying "federal funds" were building the road. Why is it when the feds throw money our way we somehow forget these are also our tax dollars? .
I'm actually excited for the 2002 Games to come to Utah. I believe it will be a great event for this state. But let's stop kidding ourselves about no additional tax dollars being used to fund this event. When the Games end, we'll discover that Utahns spent an enormous amount of local, state and federal tax dollars, much more than we were led to believe.