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‘98 BID BACKER FIGHTS NEW UTAH PLAN FOR GAMES

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Once, he was among the leaders of Salt Lake City's failed bid for the 1998 Winter Games. But now Neil Richardson heads an organization likely to fight the hardest against a Utah plan to delay construction on Olympic facilities.

Richardson, who served on the Salt Lake City Bid Committee for the Olympic Winter Games, is frustrated with a plan supported by backers of the city's bid for the 2002 Winter Games.The plan, which will be presented at a meeting of the U.S. Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs this weekend, has already been approved by the Utah Sports Authority and was expected to be endorsed by the bid committee Wednesday.

"They can approve whatever they want but they don't control the issue," Richardson said. "It's Salt Lake City that has the problem. The USOC doesn't have a problem."

As the recently elected president of the United States Bob Sled Federation, Richardson will be battling the plan that changes Salt Lake City's agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Richardson will have even more of a say in what changes are approved by the USOC. Just a few weeks ago, he was named to the powerful executive board of the USOC.

All this could be crucial to Salt Lake City's chances of hosting the 2002 Winter Games because it's the USOC that designates the American candidates in the world-wide competition.

The USOC designation of Salt Lake City as the candidate for 1998 and 2002 is contained in an agreement signed with the city in 1989. It's that agreement that Utah Olympic backers want to change.

The problem is that the $54 million set aside by voters to pay for the Olympic facilities isn't enough. Utah officials were counting on revenues from the 1998 Winter Games, which were awarded earlier this year to Nagano, Japan.

So representatives of the Sports Authority, which is responsible for building the facilities, and the bid committee, attempted to renegotiate the agreement with the USOC.

The attempt failed, and on Tuesday, the Sports Authority approved a slower construction schedule that negotiators admitted wouldn't please the winter sports organizations - especially the bobsled and luge organizations.

For Richardson, the problem with the proposed changes is that the bobsled track planned for near Park City wouldn't be completed until September 1995.

The bobsled and luge track would be the last project completed under the proposed changes. The original agreement between the USOC and Salt Lake City required all construction to be done by the end of next year.

"We were hoping to have the track completed in time to train for the 1994 Games in Lillehammer (Norway)," Richardson said. U.S. bobsledders now train in Europe; Lake Placid, N.Y.; and Calgary, Alberta, in North America.

Richardson disagreed with comments made by members of Utah's negotiating team, that sports organizations were unwilling to accept changes in the contract.

"Sports, I think, are being pretty flexible. The original agreement calls for them to be completed in the fall of 1992, which is next fall, and that's the only contract in force right now," Richardson said.

"We've been so flexible to this point, we've bent ourselves in half," said Randy Dryer, Sports Authority chairman, during a special meeting of the Sports Authority Tuesday. "I don't think there's any (more) flexibility."