A new Deseret News poll shows support for the 2002 Winter Games continuing to climb, with more than three-quarters of Utahns saying they're confident the state can successfully host the Olympics.
Frank Joklik, the chief executive officer of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, said Utahns are regaining their enthusiasm for the Winter Games because they're the next host."People are increasingly focused on the Games of 2002 as an event to look forward to," Joklik said. "It's very encouraging that Utahns are confident we're going to make a success of the Games."
Seventy-eight percent of the Utahns polled said now that the Nagano Games are over, they are confident the state can successfully host the Olympics in 2002.
"They pulled it off in Nagano without any major problem," poll-ster Dan Jones said, crediting the success of Nagano's Olympic organizers for the increase in support by Utahns.
Still, nearly as many of the state's residents questioned in the latest Deseret News poll also say they're not optimistic that Utah can do it without asking taxpayers for more money.
The percentage of Utahns who favor Salt Lake City hosting the 2002 Winter Games rose, reaching 67 percent, up six points since just before the Nagano Games began.
But Jones cautioned the positive poll numbers could fall again fast.
"My guess right now is this is a bump and it's soft," Jones said. "If something comes out about the Olym-pic Games that's not favorable, it'll go down overnight."
That's what happened after the state's longtime Olympic leader, Tom Welch, resigned after being charged with spouse abuse and was offered a $2 million severance deal by an organizing committee fighting over who should replace him.
Then, the percentage of Utahns who favored the Olympics fell to 53 percent, an all-time low. The highest level of support ever measured, 73 percent, came in 1993 at a time when organizers were staying out of the news.
Jones said the next test of Olympic support will come later this year, when organizers expect to unveil a new budget. The current $1 billion-plus budget does not include any state or local funding.
The possibility that the state could end up paying for volunteer, arts and culture, and community involvement programs was raised during Gov. Mike Leavitt's visit to Nagano.
The current poll found 71 percent of Utahns are not optimistic that Utah will host the Olympics without asking taxpayers for more money on top of the $59 million already invested in a bobsled and luge track and other facilities.
"That's mainly due to what Nagano cost," Joklik believes. The Japanese spent more than $10 billion on the 1998 Games, much of it for new infrastructure, including a high-speed train line linking Nagano and Tokyo.
"Clearly that's beyond the resources of Utah," Joklik said.
The governor won't accept a budget from Olympic organizers that exceeds available Olympic revenues, according to his spokeswoman, Vicki Varela. If he gets one, she said he'll veto it.
"And he won't hesitate to do it," Varela said. "The governor is watching it very closely. It's not something anyone can be relaxed or lackadaisical about."
She said the poll results "are very consistent with what Utahns have expressed all along." Although they support the Olympics, "they have concerns and don't want to see more tax dollars spent."
That's why, Varela said, the governor is watching the budget process so carefully. "He doesn't want that any more than any Utah citizen does," she said.
Olympic organizers have long promised not to spend more than they can raise by selling television broadcast rights, corporate sponsorships, tickets and souvenirs.
The only public funding that organizers are counting on would come from the federal government to help provide security for the thousands of foreign athletes and dignitaries who will come to Utah for the Games.
Six hundred Utahns were polled between March 6-11 by Dan Jones & Associates, less than two weeks after the closing ceremonies of the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
Deseret News Poll
Do you favor or oppose Salt Lake City hosting the 2002 Winter Games?
Strongly favor 43%
Somewhat favor 24%
Somewhat oppose 11%
Strongly oppose 18%
Don't know 4%
Now that the Nagano Games are over, how confident are you that Utah can successfully host the Games?
Very confident 42%
Somewhat confident 36%
Not very confident 12%
Not confident at all 7%
Don't know 4%
How optimistic are you that Utah will host the Olympics without asking taxpayers for more money?
Very optimistic 8%
Somewhat optimistic 18%
Not very optimistic 35%
Not optimistic at all 36%
Don't know 3%
This poll of 600 Utah residents was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates Mar. 6-11, 1998. It has a margin of error of +/-4 percent.