DO YOU FIND YOURSELF looking at the Olympic budget, released last week by Salt Lake's Olympic organizers, and thinking, "1.45 billion. Isn't that a lot?"
Let's see. A billion is a thousand million. So this is . . . a thousand times 14.5, carry the one . . . a thousand, four hundred and fifty million!Don't you wish they'd just come out and say it?
They went ahead and ordered the Rolls.
The party line from Olympic headquarters is that $1.45 billion is what it costs to run an Olympics these days. Yeah, right. The Gucci Olympics. Spending $1.45 billion gets you the Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive version.
Personally, I'm glad we're not going to drive the world around in a Yugo. Hey, I'm as insecure as the next Salt Laker, head down, eyes averted, shuffling up to the stage like Sally Field.
So we're buying the Waterford crystal, so what?
Yes, Atlanta did as a matter of fact spend more on its Olympics. Atlanta spent $1.7 billion, although that was the summer Olympics, which is three times as big. And Atlanta did have to build several new stadiums from scratch, and house about four trillion people.
We had to build an ice rink in Kearns and a ski jump. We didn't have to build any mountains. We let Larry Miller build our figure skating oval. We let the most famous hyphenated name in Utah society, Rice-Eccles, build our Olympic Stadium.
Dollar spent for dollar spent, we're kicking Atlanta's bottom line.
We're spending more than Nagano last year, and Nagano is in Japan, a country where, when it comes to pride and money, pride wins every time; and we're spending more than Lillehammer in 1994, and Lillehammer had an open checkbook from the Norwegian government, which happens to be in an unusual and exclusive club of national governments that operate IN THE BLACK.
We're spending about double what Albertville spent for the 1992 Games, and Albertville built stadiums and sent people all over the French Alps - think Tooele to Cedar City, but with no straight roads - and even prepared meals in the press room with the correct sauce.
Good for us. We are not going second cabin. We will not be looking out our portholes and see fish swimming by. We're up on the top deck, with Cal and Rose.
There are 1,227 days until our 2002 Games. We'll be spending a little over a million dollars every one of those days. Eat your heart out, Karl Malone.
The good news is that our TV revenue (close to a half-billion) is the highest ever, and the price of sponsorships is up, and ticket prices will now skyrocket (two good seats to the Opening Ceremonies or a week in Bermuda, take your pick).
The real good news is that the Olympics is riding a wave of enormous worldwide popularity.
The best news is that this is all private money. Well, except for the $59 million the taxpayers forked over, which now doesn't just seem like a drop in the bucket, it IS a drop in the bucket.
I'm still trying to figure out why it cost $750,000 to prepare the budget. What's the big deal? On one side you put expenditures, on the other side revenues, and you make sure the two numbers are the same.
Money has always been an issue.
It's a fact that the first Olympic Games of the modern era - Athens, 1896 - almost didn't happen because of money problems. French nobleman Pierre de Coubertin's grand revival was face down in a pool of red ink until a Greek patriot and architect named Georgios Averoff came forward with $200,000 - enough to not just save the Games, but build an ornate, extravagant marble stadium.
Today, that's what's budgeted for paper clips.