It's the same. But it's different.
Everyone has known for the past three years that Salt Lake City will host the 2002 Winter Games. But with the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, over, suddenly Salt Lake City is getting a lot more attention.For the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, more attention means more pressure from the International Olympic Committee, national Olympic committees, sports groups and just about anybody else planning on participating in 2002.
SLOC's years of working in relative anonymity are over, said Jim Page, the U.S. Olympic Committee assistant executive director of sports. "Now, everybody's attitude toward them is going to be completely different."
As the host of the next Winter Olympics, SLOC can expect to be pushed between now and 2002 to come up with everything from more money for U.S. athlete development to fancier hospitality suites for foreign sports officials.
Dealing with the demands won't be easy. "It's very stressful on one hand, because everybody wants more than they can deliver. But it's also very exciting," Page said. "It's why you do the Games."
Ginger Watkins, a managing director of the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, Ga., said this is when the job really starts getting tough. "Four years feels like six weeks," she said.
"You go and experience the Games before you, and you come back to work with the overwhelming feeling of their magnitude and all the things you need to get done," Watkins said.
SLOC Chief Executive Officer Frank Joklik was a little more restrained in his evaluation of what's different now that Salt Lake City is the center of attention.
"I suppose you have a feeling the clock is ticking," Joklik said. "(But) if we do our work thoroughly, then we don't feel much pressure. Pressure, I think, comes from being unprepared."
Organizers may feel the heat after reporting to the IOC Executive Board and the Association of National Olympic Committees, which are both meeting this week in Seville, Spain.
It's the IOC's second meeting since the Nagano Olympics ended in February, but the first was held in Sydney, Australia. As the host of the next Summer Games in 2000, Sydney stole the show there.
The increased scrutiny of Salt Lake as the next Winter Games host comes on top of a growing sense that SLOC may be falling behind after being touted as the best-prepared organizing committee ever.
The small but powerful IOC Executive Board, led by IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, is no doubt going to want to hear this week that Salt Lake has picked up the pace since Nagano.
The executive board members have made it clear they expect to see more top-level officials hired by the organizing committee, especially in the area of sports.
SLOC has made some progress, recently naming new directors for alpine and speed-skating events and a new senior vice-president of human resources. But the local committee has yet to find someone to oversee the sports department.
A leading candidate for the top sports job, former Big 12 Commissioner Steve Hatchell, was eliminated after stories surfaced about an investigation into allegations of workplace harassment.
There are other issues that need to be addressed by the organizing committee, including choosing a mascot for the 2002 Winter Games. That's probably going to wait until the first of next year.
"This is a good meeting for us to give a broad overview," said SLOC Senior Vice President of Games Dave Johnson. "It's important for the IOC to understand where we are in our budget process."
Much of the organizing committee's attention has been focused on a major revision of its $1 billion-plus budget. The project, aided by a consulting firm hired at a cost of $750,000, is due to be completed by September.
"You're going to see a tremendous acceleration take place as soon as this budget is done," Johnson said, even though he stressed he doesn't believe organizers have fallen behind.
Jim Easton, who serves on the SLOC board of trustees as one of the three IOC members from the United States, said he thinks the organizing committee is moving at the right speed.
"I was one who strongly expressed, `Don't go too fast, don't overplan this thing too early, and don't hire too many people too early,' " Easton said. "I think things are going at the right pace."
Especially when it comes to hiring.
Easton said he's pleased organizers "are not desperately going out there to find warm bodies to fill positions. . . . The last thing I'd like to see is a bunch of people sitting around looking for something to do," he said.
It shouldn't be too difficult for organizers to satisfy the IOC. According to Easton, who does not sit on the IOC Executive Board, most members continue to be pleased with what Salt Lake has ac-com-plish-ed.
"You're starting from happy people," Easton said. And keeping the IOC happy "is a matter of just plugging along, the way (organizers) have been doing."
The IOC was not happy with the last Olympics held in the United States, though, and is determined not to allow the same mistakes to be made in Salt Lake City. The same goes for the USOC.
"The whole USOC is focused on Salt Lake City and 2002," Page said. That focus is so strong that some of the summer sports feel they're not getting enough attention as they prepare for the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney.
Part of the reason for the focus on Salt Lake, of course, is that the U.S. team wants to do well on its home turf. A good performance by the team will encourage more long-term financial support from corporate America.
But there's also the need to counter the bad impression left by the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. Those Games were criticized for problems in technology and security, as well as for street vendors who created a flea-market atmosphere.
"A lot of other nations have a bad image of what happened in Atlanta, rightly or wrongly," Page said. "We'll be looking at Salt Lake to right that image."