Top officials of the U.S. Olympic Committee set aside $18 million on Sunday for a new program aimed at boosting the medal count of American athletes in the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

"It is designed to get the very best results out of our team in Salt Lake City, as we promised," USOC spokesman Mike Moran said. "It's a huge commitment of cash."Especially compared to what was spent to ready athletes for the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. There, only about $500,000 was spent and the U.S. team was able only to tie its record for the most medals in a Winter Games, 13.

International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch said recently that won't be good enough when the Winter Games are held in the United States in 2002.

USOC officials were already talking about spending up to $20 million to improve the team's chances in Salt Lake City. On Sunday, they settled on $18 million for a program called Podium 2002.

The program, unanimously approved by the USOC Executive Committee meeting in Indianapolis, will provide performance-based grants to national sports organizations.

The program must still must be endorsed by the full USOC board of directors, which is next scheduled to meet in October.