It's the kind of publicity that makes Utah Olympic organizers wince.
According to The Daily Telegraph of London, "the prospect of thousands of snow-sports competitors and supporters eager for apres-ski descending on the city has raised doubts about its suitability as an Olympic venue."The Feb. 28 article questions how much fun visitors are going to be able to have during the 2002 Winter Games because "Salt Lake City has infuriated the rest of America in past decades by shunning the consumption of alcohol."
There's even a reference to a warning in a popular guidebook to any travelers who arrive by car in Salt Lake City: "You'll soon find yourself tempted to head out of town."
Not all of the stories written after the 1998 Winter Games ended in Nagano, Japan, late last month portrayed Salt Lake City - the host of the next Winter Games - in such an unfavorable light.
The Boston Globe cited examples of diversity in what "is supposed to be a bland, quiet, lily-white monocultural Mormon city" and noted the state "has finally relaxed its stone-age liquor laws."
The Rocky Mountain News in Denver noted that "the City of the Saints has matured to such worldliness that Hooters (a restaurant chain noted for skimpily dressed waitresses) is scouting sites to get in on the action."
Few journalists, it seems, can resist such references to Utah's liquor laws and the influence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when they write about the 2002 Winter Games.
"There's going to be a lot of scrutiny," predicted Bill Sullivan, a sports writer for the Houston Chronicle who's visited Salt Lake City regularly over the past dozen years while covering the NBA.
That's just what happens when a city goes after the Olympics, he said. "If you were comfortable with the image of being a little town in the middle of nowhere . . . you sure as heck wouldn't get involved with something like this."
The state's promoters, of course, have always viewed the Olympics as an opportunity to sell the world on Utah as a pretty, great place to visit and to do business in.
"It's helping to establish at least an awareness of Salt Lake City," said Rick Davis, president of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, acknowledging there's a lot of work to do on the city's image.
"People think of the desert environment, the mountains, the Great Salt Lake and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," Davis said. The 2002 Winter Games are "a chance for us to tell our story."
The Cliff Notes version of that story is a brochure describing each of the communities where Olympic events will be held. Salt Lake City is labeled "a sophisticated metropolis with home-town friendliness."
Historic Mormon Temple Square is mentioned, as are the "300 watering holes - as in brewpubs, bars, lounges and clubs" as well as coffeehouses, all "garnished with some extremely lusty, feisty entertainment offerings."
The brochure, which includes information on the 2002 Winter Games as well as a map of Olympic venues, is awaiting the approval of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.
Davis has offered to print 1 million copies at a cost of about $150,000 so the brochure can be used by Olympic organizers and others to respond to reporter inquiries from around the world.
This won't be the first time the convention and visitors bureau has tried to show reporters covering the 2002 Winter Games a different side of Salt Lake City.
During last fall's U.S. Olympic Committee's media summit, the bureau was criticized for giving reporters a goodie bag that included two bottles of locally brewed beer to help answer questions about the state's liquor laws.
Davis said those questions still need to be answered, but, "at the same time, we have to recognize the majority of the people who live in Utah don't drink . . . (and) we have to be sensitive."
SLOC Chief Executive Officer Frank Joklik said the state's image is important to the success of the Games. "It's key to the whole exercise that people come away with some respect and love for the people of Utah," he said.
But that doesn't mean Utahns have to do anything differently during the Games. "You might say it's our responsibility to teach the people how to present themselves for the Olympics. I don't agree with that," Joklik said.
"We wouldn't presume to teach anyone. This has to come spontaneously," he said of the hospitality he expects Utahns to display to the world. "The basics are here already, if people are just themselves."
That hospitality may be enough to convince even the most hostile representatives of the international press that Salt Lake City is worth visiting, some local leaders believe.
With reporters already visiting the area from around the world, Salt Lake City employees have been advised to be on their best behavior, and communities along the Wasatch Front are fighting road rage.
Steve Pace, perhaps the biggest critic of the Olympics and the effect they're having on Utah, said he's against any effort to buff up Salt Lake City's image.
The city's motto, according to Pace, should be, " `We are what we are' . . . as opposed to, `We are Salt Lake City but we want to be hip.' People want to fool everyone else that this place is something it isn't."