As he did for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, President Clinton announced Friday he is forming a high-level task force to oversee federal assistance to the 2002 Winter Games.

The new group, formally named the White House Task Force on the 2002 Olympic and Paralympic Games, is headed by Vice President Al Gore. It will also have representatives from every Cabinet-level department, plus several other key agencies.One of its two vice chairmen is Mickey Ibarra, a native Utahn who is Clinton's director of intergovernmental affairs. The other is Thurgood Marshall Jr., an assistant to Clinton and secretary of the Cabinet.

Ibarra and Marshall were in Utah Friday touring Olympic venues, including the Snowbasin Ski Area in Ogden Valley and the Olympic Village for athletes being constructed at the University of Utah.

Both were briefed by Salt Lake Organizing Committee leaders on the new $1.45 billion budget made public Thursday. Organizers said they expect $171 million on top of that in federal support.

SLOC's Washington-based lobbyists have already approached the administration for help securing the funds. Ibarra told reporters Friday the number was not a surprise. "That's a good thing," he said.

"We remain fully committed to do all we possibly can to get as close to that number as we possibly can," he said. "We believe they are legitimate needs."

The bulk of the money would go for the Olympic transportation system. SLOC wants federal help to defray the cost of borrowing up to 1,400 buses from public transit systems across the country.

The rest of the $171 million in federal assistance would be used to help stage the Paralympic Games for disabled athletes after the Olympics, as well as provide security and weather information for both events.

Marshall said the new SLOC budget gives the administration confidence in the $171 million figure. The effort that went into coming up with the numbers "provides a very compelling argument," he said.

And Ibarra's background is also likely to help Olympic organizers get what they need for the Games from the federal government.

"As a native of Salt Lake City and as the president's principal liaison to Utah elected officials, Mr. Ibarra brings valuable knowledge of the area to the task force," White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said while traveling with Clinton in Chicago.

Gore also headed a similar task force for the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. It had regular, public meetings at the White House where heads of federal agencies reported on efforts to aid the Olympics. Salt Lake officials were invited then as observers.

McCurry said the new task force "will be an interagency effort to coordinate the extensive federal activities involved in the planning and operation of the Salt Lake City Winter Games."

Federal help for the Atlanta Olympics ranged from arranging visas for foreign athletes to helping with security, transportation, housing, protocol, high-tech weather forecasting and even the minting of special Olympic coins.

Some specifics in 1996 included helping Atlanta transportation by arranging the loan of 1,400 buses from around the country and funding highway improvements, pedestrian walkways, bridge rehabilitation and park-and-ride lot improvements.

Gore said in 1996 about Atlanta, "Without our contribution of thousands of troops and federal law enforcement to secure the Games, without our help in building the roads and airport improvements, without our plans for emergencies and contingencies, these Games could not go forward."

McCurry listed all agencies that will have representation on the new task force - and it includes virtually every top agency imaginable.

He said it includes the Cabinet departments of State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education and Veterans Affairs.

Also on the list are the Cabinet-level agencies of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

The other agencies on the task force are the Office of Personnel Management, General Services Administration, the Corporation for National Service, the U.S. Information Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission and the National Security Council.