Utah should not get stuck with a reputation as being "party-oriented" just because Budweiser has been named the official beer of the 2002 Winter Games, the most vocal opponent of the $50 million-plus sponsorship deal said.
"We've always been family-oriented," said George J. Van Komen, a local doctor who heads the Utah Alcohol Policy Coalition. "We are not a party-oriented state. That is not the image we wish to portray to the world."Van Komen's group, with the support of the Utah PTA and the Utah Medical Association, tried unsuccessfully to stop Anheuser-Busch from becoming an Olympic sponsor.
Tuesday, the brewery became the latest backer of both the 2002 Winter Games and the U.S. Olympic teams through the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece, joining a list that includes Delta Air Lines and US WEST.
The deal is worth more than $50 million in cash, merchandise and services to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee, which jointly market the 2002 Winter Games.
Although Van Komen said he was disappointed, he is not calling for any action against Olympic organizers. "We certainly will not have protests or anything like that," he said.
But the doctor said he'd like to meet with organizing committee officials and representatives of the brewery based in St. Louis to make sure Budweiser's presence in Utah is "toned-down and appropriate."
USOC Deputy Secretary General John Krimsky, who heads the joint marketing arm of the organizing committee and the USOC, said Van Komen doesn't need to worry.
"I have every confidence they will act in a tasteful and appropriate way," Krimsky said. Under Anheuser-Busch's contract with the USOC and SLOC, Krimsky approves all the company's Olympic-related marketing efforts.
Bob Garff, the chairman of the SLOC board of trustees, said he believes the company will honor the state's attitude toward alcohol. "It would be unwise for a corporate sponsor to do otherwise," Garff said.
However, Garff said the Olympics are "not a religious event. In this community, at sports events, we serve alcoholic beverages. It is not a different standard than we already have."
And, he said, Utahns need to remember that they've invited the world here - even though the majority of the state's residents belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which eschews the consumption of alcohol.
"We live in a world we have to be part of," Garff said. "I believe we have to be gracious hosts. We have to provide things to the citizens of the world that they're used to."
According to a Deseret News poll earlier this year, 61 percent of those polled said Utah should not change its liquor laws to accommodate Olympics visitors. Only 35 percent said Utah's liquor laws are too restrictive and should be changed.
The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has always maintained that state liquor officials can accommodate the Winter Games without changes to existing laws.
Although state law prohibits alcoholic beverage advertising, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission in 1996 issued a new rule that permitted beer advertisements, but left in place a ban on wine and liquor advertisements.
The commission's decision to allow beer advertisements was a result of a suit filed after the U.S. Supreme court decided in a Rhode Island case that state prohibitions on truthful liquor advertising were unconstitutional.
That rule will allow Anheuser-Busch to promote Budweiser during the 2002 Winter Games. In past Olympics, the Budweiser logo has appeared on everything from billboards to blimps.
If Anheuser-Busch decides to have "beer tents" where their product is sold to Winter Games patrons, they will have to abide by the same laws as any other special event. That typically involves obtaining the consent of local city fathers; avoiding proximity to churches, schools and parks; and obtaining limited-use state permits to sell alcoholic beverages.
The proximity issue could cause problems. Current law does not allow liquor sales within 600 feet of a park, school or church - and 81 percent of those polled by the Deseret News agreed that law should not be changed.
That law can be waived by the state for special-event permits in some cases. Permit-holders are required to adhere to rigorous requirements regarding insurance, restricting drinks from being taken off-premises and making efforts to keep minors from consuming alcohol.
Such permits are rather commonplace. Every month, the alcohol commission approves numerous requests for special-use permits for various fund-raising events, sporting events and festivals.
The controversy over the 2002 Winter Games getting an official beer has attracted international interest. A producer for a German television network is planning to visit the state next week to do a story.
The producer, Monika Kaiser, based in Washington, D.C., said the controversy will be the focus of the story, although she plans to explain Utah's liquor laws. "For Germans, it's quite interesting," Kaiser said.