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Backers of Salt Lake City's bid for the 1998 Winter Games are convinced the campaign will be out of debt before the International Olympic Committee announces Saturday which city is the winner.

Estimates are that the Salt Lake City Bid Committee has spent nearly $5 million in pursuit of the Olympic Winter Games. But nobody knows yet exactly how much money the bid committee has raised.Just two weeks ago, the bid committee was still more than $300,000 in the red. Late last year, the bid committee was $1.7 million shy of what it needed to pay the bills through the IOC announcement.

Bid committee officials said money has been pouring in for the past week and continues to be donated, even though many of Utah's Olympic supporters are already in Birmingham, England, for the weeklong IOC meeting.

The assistant general counsel to the bid committee, Kelly Flint, is responsible for collecting the contributions, but even he isn't sure what the bid committee's balance is.

"It hasn't been a priority. There have been other things that needed to be done," Flint said. "The beginning of the week, we'll sit down and reconcile this."

The bid committee offices were filled last week with literally tons of boxes filled with everything from office supplies to the scarves, ties and other gifts that will be given to IOC members, all destined for Birmingham.

In the midst of all of the packing and other last-minute chores, bid committee chairman Tom Welch felt he could finally breathe a sigh of relief over finances.

That the bid committee's money problems appear to be over was good news for Welch, who was saying only a few weeks ago that the debt may not be paid off before the IOC decision is made.

"We'll be in the black by the time we present our bid," Welch said before leaving for Birmingham Sunday. "People are coming through. I'm really pleased with the response."

All of the 220 or so members of the Utah delegation to the IOC meeting - including Welch - are paying their own travel expenses. Some of the most dedicated volunteers may be reimbursed, if there is enough money. Paying for the bid effort isn't much different than financing a political campaign. Political candidates want to be in the black before election day, knowing it'll be tough to raise money if they lose.

Late last year, it looked as if the bid committee would still owe money come Saturday. That's when the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce was called in to help with fund raising.

International travel is the main reason the bid effort cost so much. Bid committee officials traveled all over the world to meet with many of the 92 members of the IOC.

Fifty-nine IOC members visited Salt Lake City at the bid committee's expense in the past year. The bid committee spent more than $15,000 giving each visitor the red-carpet treatment.

The chamber immediately started pitching a number of Olympic products, from a set of $1,998 skis to T-shirts, as well as assembling community leaders to solicit donations.

Some of the chamber's fund-raising efforts were less successful than others. A statewide media campaign aimed at getting every Utahn to contribute $19.98 raised only about $400.

Chamber President Fred Ball said most of the money raised has come from large companies, many of which have been asked for contributions more than once.

Ball is careful not to blame anyone for the debt he was asked to retire. "We came in with a single focus. Our job was just to raise the money. The people who were doing it before were spread too thin."