Tom Smart, Deseret News
The Salt Lake City skyline is lit with Olympic banners on building and the medals plaza in the foreground on Jan. 29, 2002.\r\n
Salt Lake City, no question, was one of the best Games ever. It just was. But most of the IOC looking forward likes to look at new places. —Jeff Robbins, Utah Sports Commission

SALT LAKE CITY — A bid for another Winter Games should be sold as a long shot that will bring positive publicity to the state no matter what happens, according to a proposed communications strategy presented Wednesday to the Olympic Exploratory Committee.

"Regardless of the outcome, there is an inherent value in exploring new and exciting opportunities to remind the world of what an amazing winter sports destination Utah is and showcase Salt Lake City," the proposal stated.

The committee is expected to take action on the draft proposal after members have had a chance to review the eight-page document, prepared with the help of local marketing and advertising executives.

"This is great stuff," said Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, a co-chairman of the committee.

The proposal also details what questions should be asked in a statewide poll planned in mid-May to assess public interest in trying for another Winter Games. The committee is scheduled to make a recommendation to Gov. Gary Herbert by June.

The questions included asking how respondents feel about another bid if the odds are against the state of getting another Olympics after hosting the 2002 Winter Games.

Also suggested was asking about "Utah as a world-class sports capital and who Utah is and wants to be from an image perspective" and about "other investments we should be making toward these larger goals."

The governor announced the formation of the committee on Feb. 8, the 10-year anniversary of the start of the 2002 Olympics. He is expected to make a decision about bidding again during the summer.

The report suggests that once the committee finishes its work, a six-week "quiet period" with "radio silence" should be established to prevent information from being leaked to the press.

"Then," the report said, "have the announcement of the decision by the governor come as a big surprise with maximum PR benefit."

The report concludes if the decision is not to pursue another bid, "we should be prepared to deal with potential negative fallout" that could be mitigated by explaining that "looking at opportunities like this is something we do as an ongoing part of being a winter sports capital, so this won't be the last bid we consider."

Helen Langan, a senior adviser to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker who put together the report, told the committee that point was made "a little bit tongue-in-cheek."

One of the suggestions made about the communications strategy was being careful not to set expectations too high that any bid would be for the next Winter Games available, in 2022.

Colin Hilton, head of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, said there is a possibility the U.S. Olympic Committee won't accept bids for 2022 because of the ongoing dispute with the International Olympic Committee over sharing revenues.

Hilton said the committee should emphasize that the state is looking at being "prepared for as early as 2022," but may bid for a later Winter Games.

Jeff Robbins, head of the Utah Sports Commission, said how to sell another bid to the decision-makers at the USOC and IOC also needs to be considered.

"The challenge we've got is to leverage all the great things we did" while presenting a bid seen as "so different, so new and so innovative, it's not just going back to the same thing we did in 2002," Robbins said.

"Salt Lake City, no question, was one of the best Games ever. It just was," he said. "But most of the IOC looking forward likes to look at new places."

Committee members reported there is general support for another bid from officials in the communities that hosted events in 2002 as well as from the ski resorts and other venues themselves.

"There wasn't one venue that we met with that didn't want to do it again," Hilton said.

A fundraising event hosted by the sports commission is expected to raise $30,000 to help fund the committee's work. The group's next meeting is sceduled for April 25.

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