State and local government officials are spending more than $41,000 in tax dollars to travel to Birmingham, England, this month to see if Salt Lake City gets the bid for the 1998 Winter Games.
But most of the Utah delegation to the meeting of the International Olympic Committee that begins June 10 will be paying for the trip overseas out of their own pockets.The head of the privately funded bid effort, Tom Welch, has said he hopes to be able to reimburse some of the most dedicated volunteers for their travel costs.
But with the IOC's June 15 decision only about two weeks away, the Salt Lake City Bid Committee for the Olympic Winter Games is nearly $400,000 in debt. Fund-raisers realize they may be lucky to pay the bills they already have.
The 15 members of the Utah Sports Authority - the state agency overseeing $56 million in taxes being collected to build winter sports facilities - have been invited by their chairman to attend but are responsible for their own expenses.
The state of Utah is spending $14,634 to send six people, including Gov. Norm Bangerter and his wife, Colleen. They're leaving for Paris Friday and are scheduled to meet with six IOC officials before arriving in England on June 10.
The others heading across the Atlantic on state funds are Francine Giani, the governor's press secretary; Brad Barber, director of demographic and economic analysis; and two of Bangerter's bodyguards.
Barber, who until recently devoted part of his time to calculating the financial benefits of hosting the Olympics to the state, will advise the governor on the technical aspects of the bid according to his boss.State budget director Dale Hatch said Barber has put a lot of time and effort into helping the bid, but that's not why he decided to honor Barber's request to go to Birmingham.
"No question he has worked hard on the Olympic effort, but I was not ready to authorize it on that basis," Hatch said. "The main reason he's going to be there is his expertise."
All seven Salt Lake City Council members will travel to England to help the city's bid for the 1998 Winter Olympics. The trip will cost taxpayers $18,200, but council members are quick to note that the travel budget did not increase this year to accommodate the trip. The council simply saved money by eliminating other trips.
The mayor's office is sending Mayor Palmer DePaulis, his chief of staff Mike Zuhl and administrative aides Jill Remington and Phil Erickson. The trip will cost about $15,537, but only $8,575 of that will be public money.
The rest will come from money private sources donated to the city in 1988 when it hosted a national conference of mayors. The city spent less than it expected that year and asked the donors if they wanted their money back or if it could be kept for other purposes.
"Some people chose to leave the money in our account," said Emilie Charles, assistant to the mayor.
City officials believe a strong presence will show the IOC that the city is united behind its bid. They are quick to note that many Atlanta city officials were in Tokyo when the 1996 Summer Games were awarded to that city.
In addition, IOC members who visited Salt Lake City in recent months became acquainted with many City Council members and aides to the mayor. City officials believe IOC members will respond well to familiar faces.