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Now that the International Olympic Committee is meeting in Great Britain this week to decide the site for the 1998 Winter Games, Utahns can do little but bite their fingernails as they await the fate of their bid.

Yet even before Saturday's IOC verdict, and no matter how it comes out, there are some things that ought to be said.First, the effort itself has been worthwhile. Salt Lake City has been raised to international stature in the world of winter sports. It was chosen by the U.S. Olympic Committee to represent America and has been visited and lavishly praised by IOC delegates from around the world.

Because of the commitment to spend $56 million to construct winter sports facilities - Games or no Games - the U.S. International Speed Skating Association moved its headquarters to Utah. The U.S. Ski Team had already moved its offices to Utah earlier. The planned facilities could make Utah the U.S. center for training of American athletes for Olympic Winter Games for decades to come.

Second, the quality of the Olympic bid put together by Utah has been truly outstanding. IOC members have been deeply impressed, as they have been with the state and the facilities needed to hold Olympic Games.

If the bid fails, there will be no reason to feel that the city somehow failed to measure up. Many observers say the choice of another site would have mostly to do with international political concerns, such as holding both the Winter Games and the Summer Games consecutively in the United States. As one visiting writer said, if the choice is based on merit alone, there is no question that Salt Lake City would be chosen.

Another plus that has come from the bid has been the joining of hands by varied segments of Utah in a sense of community pride and working together for something beyond their usual interests and concerns. Individuals and organizations have donated time, hard work and money to the Olympic effort.

This sense of common effort will continue and intensify, of course, if Salt Lake City is selected for the Winter Games. But even if another site is picked, this kind of partnership ought to be carried forward in other ways. And Salt Lake City remains the choice of the U.S. Olympic Committee for the 2002 Games, if necessary.

All told, making the bid has been a growing and learning experience with tangible benefits - no matter what the outcome.