Think of the construction projects put on the fast track after Salt Lake City won the bid for the 2002 Winter Games, and I-15 reconstruction and light rail probably come to mind.
But a less-seen upgrade is an enhancement of the telecommunications infrastructure along the Wasatch Front worth $300 million to $400 million, said Sharon B. Kingman, director of telecommunications for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.The infrastructure will drive telephones, wireless phones, computer network connections between venues, broadcasting and Internet service.
If the upgrades do for Salt Lake City what a similar technology buildup did for Atlanta when it hosted the 1996 Summer Games, high-tech businesses, jobs and investing will be accelerated too.
The Atlanta Games left the city wrapped in more fiber optic cable than any other city in the world. Georgia made the American Electronics Association Top 10 states with the highest number of high-tech jobs in 1996 and has stayed there. Georgia made a top 10 list for venture capital in 1997.
SLOC doesn't want wireless telephone dead spots in canyon travel routes to event venues, and telecommunications sponsors want to be able to showcase flawless, state-of-the-art technology. Even the farthest-flung venues are destined to have the kind of telecommunications amenities found in downtown Salt Lake City.
To ensure the kind of telecommunications performance SLOC and sponsors are demanding, upgrades in the existing network are under way both inside the fence - at venue sites - and outside the fence, in the community generally that either wouldn't be matched at all without the Olympics or wouldn't be seen as soon in the Salt Lake area, Kingman said.
Network specifications require redundancy to keep a mishap from interrupting service. A fiber optic cable cut that interrupted the Games' telecommunications network would negatively impact its users to the tune of $20,000 a millisecond, Kingman said.
"There were real communications issues when the bomb went off in Atlanta," said Kingman, who was Bell South's Olympics programs director for the 1996 Summer Games there. "Thirty to 40 percent of our planning (for the 2002 Winter Games) will be totally unused" unless a failure prompts the need to use backup systems.
Much of the network hardware will stay in the Salt Lake area after the Olympic storm blows through town, facilitating better telecommunications service in outlying areas near Games venues and beef-ing up telecommunications capacity in town.
Fiber optic networking in outlying areas will create the same kind of potential for business expansion a rail spur would have attracted in previous decades.
Olympic sponsor US WEST will own the bulk of the fiber optic upgrades. US WEST will relocate switching hardware that will be needed for the Games but not needed in the same location after, said Randy Lynch, US WEST's Olympic programs vice president. "But we're certainly not going to be pulling fiber optic cable out of the ground."
Utahns may reap some benefit even from hardware sold off after the Games, like 6,000 television sets, for example. "We're going to have the world's biggest garage sale," Kingman said.
Broadcast upgrades to facilitate digital television are also proceeding on a schedule aligned with the 2002 Winter Games, but those upgrades are being driven by Federal Communications Commission schedules, not the Olympics.
NBC has U.S. broadcast rights for the Games. Salt Lake affiliate KSL-TV will be prepared to broadcast a digital signal by next year, said Steve Lindsley, KSL vice president and general manager.
NBC's tentative plans don't include transmitting digital television signals for the Games. "But we will definitely pass through a digital signal if the network passes one through us for the Olympics."