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There is an outbreak of a new disease in Utah called Olympic fever - a sickness that inhibits objectivity, says an opponent of the Utah Winter Olympics bid.

But one Olympics proponent says he is glad to have the disease."I admit that I have Olympic fever," said Hal Christensen, a Salt Lake attorney who is in favor of the Winter Olympics tax diversion referendum. "I have a very bad case. I think the Olympics are the only thing on the horizon that offers the people of this state a chance to get behind something and really do something together."

Steve Pace, co-founder of Utahns for Responsible Public Spending - a group opposing the Olympics, described the disease as a suspension of a person's ability to think critically and to balance costs and benefits.

Those with the disease also have "a tendency to gush about the good things everybody feels about the state," he said.

"Olympic fever doesn't involve strong concern about the facts presented by the Olympic Organizing Committee itself. If you've got Olympic fever, you don't analyze those facts."

Pace also referred to the disease as "Pinocchiosis" - where noses get longer as people ignore the facts about the Olympics. "We are treating them on an outpatient basis now, but it's bound to get worse."

But Christensen said, "Most arguments are related to direct cost. I see benefits that are much greater than that. I think direct costs are equal or better than the income. Getting the Olympics here in Utah can energize this state. I don't see anything else on the horizon that is going to do that."

Pace and Christensen debated on the Winter Olympics Thursday at the Excelsior Hotel, sponsored by the Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce. The Winter Olympics referendum will come before voters in the November 7 general election.

Debate sponsors had expected a larger turnout, but only a handful of people were present - half of them members of the press.

Pace said he would like to see the state progress and feel good about itself, but he would also like to see textbooks in schools. "I think it's ironic to see the position they have taken that there is nothing wrong with education that $156 million in resort facilities won't cure.

Because the funds come from sales tax and not property tax, dollars going to education will not suffer, proponents say.