Three years after Salt Lake City was named host of the 2002 Winter Games, Olympic planners still can't say how many of the tickets to sporting events will be reserved for Utahns.
Olympic organizers announced more than a month ago that some of the estimated 1.2 million tickets will be set aside for Utahns. But they can't say what proportion, and they haven't even checked to see how other host cities handled the same question in the past.In an appearance Wednesday before the Legislature's Business, Labor and Economic Development Committee, officials of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee and the state's Olympics coordinator presented previously released fiscal information and talked about plans for the games.
After the presentation, the planners took questions from legislators. "One of you said something about every resident will have access to tickets," began Rep. Afton B. Bradshaw, R-Salt Lake.
"I didn't say every resident," interrupted Utah Olympic Officer John E. Fowler, who works in the office of Gov. Mike Leavitt. "I said our intent is to provide the ability to purchase tickets (by) Utah residents for all Olympic events."
Shelley Thomas, spokeswoman for the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, added, "In our ticketing program, we would want to hold out a certain number, and we don't know how many we will be allowed to do that, that are strictly for sale in Utah."
"I'm just wondering what your thoughts are in making them available for the people of Utah," Bradshaw said.
Fowler said planners want a fair policy. Other Olympic venues have gone to a drawing to distribute tickets when demand outstrips ticket availability, he said.
"This is the world's largest international sporting event," Thomas said. "And we must market it worldwide, and the IOC will hold us to that. But we plan to propose a ticketing program for Utah residents. There's no way to know how many tickets totally will be available."
However, SLOC plans to propose that the nightly awards ceremony in the Awards Plaza will be free of charge, with no tickets provided. "We're doing all we can to have other events surrounding it, so that everyone can participate, whether or not they have tickets," she said.
Bradshaw asked if Salt Lake City isn't the largest city ever to host the Olympics.
"The Winter Olympics," corrected Thomas. She added that she isn't sure about how Salt Lake City compares with the population of Calgary, Canada (which hosted the 1988 Winter Games), but they are similar.
Because of high demand to watch some of the events, Thomas said, "It will be very difficult to get a ticket, whether you're from Salt Lake or Provo or Paris or Argentina or New York."
After the meeting, the Deseret News asked Fowler for an estimate of the proportion of tickets that would be available for sales to Utahns, even if actual numbers aren't available. "Don't know because we have to finalize the venues," Fowler said.
"What about other places. What proportions have been earmarked for local people?" the reporter asked.
"I don't know the answer to that. I'm sure you could ask Nagano or Lillehammer," he said, referring to the sites of the 1998 Winter Games in Japan and those held 41/2 years ago in Norway. "Usually that's a function also of where the Olympics are held."
Asked whether anyone has looked into that question, Fowler said, "No, not really."
Is there a feeling that there should be real emphasis on looking out for Utahns? "Yeah, that's what we were trying to communicate, that there will be a Utah ticketing program," he said.