The moment for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to reach out and encircle the greater community with the five Olympic rings is now. Apparently, the people of Utah are looking more favorably on the Games than ever before.
Recent Deseret News poll results show 67 percent of Utahns favor Salt Lake City hosting the Games four years from now, with only 29 percent opposed. Another 78 percent are confident Utah will do a first-class job. There is a paradox, perhaps, that despite those highly favorable marks, 71 percent believe taxpayers will cough up more money to stage the Games. Yet that is not viewed as a significant deterrent.When asked if they favored spending tax dollars in six key areas of preparation to ensure the success of the global event, a majority said yes in every instance. There was 69 percent approval for using public money for police and security and, notably, 60 percent in favor of tax funds for community programs aimed at involving all Utahns in the Games. Transportation, volunteer recruitment, tourism, economic development, the arts and culture programs all merit public support, said a majority.
There no doubt are limits to how much tax money citizens would be willing to cough up. Frank Joklik, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's chief executive officer, expressed encouragement at the support but said poll results would not necessarily increase the likelihood of using state money. Not doing so would please everyone.
Of course, residents still expect SLOC to repay the $59 million in state money used to construct Olympic venues and to leave the $40 million endowment to fund the facilities following the Games. But public support indicates a willingness to bend on the sensitive issue of using tax dollars, provided Utahns are widely involved in preparation and production of the Games. If there is a true sense of ownership, they may also be willing to open their wallets a bit to make everything work if necessary.
Though it is too early to begin volunteer programs in earnest, any outreach efforts through schools, civic and political organizations will help build upon this positive momentum in the push toward 2002.