It is not surprising that Utahns are ambivalent about their Olympic roles and do not feel a part of the 2002 Winter Games, given that the opening ceremonies still are more than three years away. What is surprising is that 50 percent have no desire for involvement anyway, at any time.

That, too, may be a factor of timing. But it also reiterates the need for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to focus on communication and outreach in an effort to pull Joe and Jane citizen into the loop. Tuesday's "Olympic Forum" at the Salt Palace was a good step in that direction.The confab, attended by some 1,000 people, provided organizers a chance to present their plans for 2002 to business, civic and religious leaders from throughout the state. The general public also was invited. Besides proffering their ideas, the session allowed discussion about specific programs and a pitch from Gov. Mike Leavitt for Utahns to volunteer.

A plea for inclusion was issued by some attendees, who indicated there are sizable groups eager to volunteer if given the opportunity. If not tapped soon, those pools of willing people may begin drying up, however, if a recent Deseret News poll is any indication.

Fifty-eight percent of Utahns surveyed indicated they don't feel at all a part of the Games. About half of them said they don't want to. Sixty-nine percent said they do not know enough about what is being planned.

The surprisingly high number who don't want to participate reiterates the need for continued efforts at openness and citizen in-volve-ment. By the time 2002 rolls around, many of that reticent flock should be back in the fold if SLOC makes efforts now to include them.

During the two weeks the Winter Games grace Utah, nearly 20,000 volunteers will be needed to make everything work smoothly. Others will have already contributed in myriad ways leading up to the event. That all points to the need to make the worldwide event Utahns' Games, involving state residents whenever and wherever possible. It is not too early for that to happen.