For Utah's public health agencies, the 2002 Winter Games are going to be like Christmas is for a kid who's just found out there's no Santa Claus. It's still fun, but it's just not the same.
"Once you peek behind the scenes and you see it happens a little different than you thought it did, it takes away part of the magic," Dr. Scott Williams, deputy director of the Utah Department of Health, said Tuesday.Williams was trying to explain what's ahead to some 200 state and local public health agency representatives gathered for the 2002 Winter Games Environmental and Public Health Planning Summit.
The audience had already gotten an earful since the two-day meeting began Monday. Federal officials had warned of a long list of potential health problems that can surface during the Olympics.
They spent hours talking among themselves about what they're going to have to do to combat everything from spectators spreading the sniffles to the threat posed by terrorists armed with biological weapons.
Not exactly like relying on someone like Santa Claus to deliver. Williams said he, like a lot of Utahns, was initially ambivalent when he heard the Olympics were coming to Utah.
He said he felt inspired by the event, yet also was concerned about the effect having it here would have on the Wasatch Front. Now, he said it's time to recognize that the Olympics are coming, like it or not.
The purpose of the planning summit was to deliver that message to representatives of agencies from around the state and get them working on a blueprint for handling health issues.
A small alliance of health-care officials have already been working on a plan for more than a year, but realized more agencies needed to be involved in the process.
A draft plan to coordinate health services between local, state and federal entities should be done within six months. The cost of the additional services needed at just the state level has already been estimated at $750,000.
That number could climb as planners start taking a closer look at what it means to extend an invitation to tens of thousands of athletes, dignitaries, spectators and reporters from around the world.
Some of the issues raised Tuesday included the need to make sure there's enough safe drinking water, especially in less-populated areas where Olympic events are scheduled.
The solid waste generated by all the Olympic visitors must also be dealt with. Private contractors hired by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee will haul much of it away, but local landfills have to find room for it.
There's also the question of how to continue to provide public health services to the state's residents during the Olympics - and during the Paralympics for disabled athletes that will follow.