He may have spent only a few minutes looking over the state Winter Sports Park, but U.S. Olympic Committee President Bill Hybl said he was pleased with what he saw.
"This is just one more reason why Salt Lake City was the USOC choice - America's choice - twice now," Hybl told reporters gathered Monday afternoon at the park, located off U-224 near Kimball Junction.Hybl said the park, which is expected to open this November, will help Salt Lake City secure the 2002 Winter Games after losing the 1998 Winter Games to Nagano, Japan.
"I think most of us feel Salt Lake City will be the home of the Olympics in 2002," he said during his visit from the USOC's Colorado Springs headquarters. "There's no question that Salt Lake City has to be the front runner."
Besides winter sports facilities that would be easily accessible to Olympic participants, Salt Lake City also offers "great business and government support," Hybl said.
Earlier in the day, he spoke to some of the state's top business and government leaders who serve as trustees and advisers to the Salt Lake City Bid Committee for the Olympic Winter Games.
"There's no question there's an appreciation" by the USOC for the level of commitment shown by Salt Lake City, Hybl told trustees. Salt Lake City has an agreement with the USOC to build facilities even if the city doesn't get the Olympics.
He told the larger advisory committee that becoming a winter sports capital is "a great opportunity for your community and it's a great opportunity for the United States," he said.
In the afternoon, Hybl surveyed the massive winter sports park site still under construction from a helicopter that circled the ski jumps and other facilities being carved into the hillsides.
After a brief press conference, Hybl stopped quickly at three spots, glancing briefly up and then down ski jumps before heading back to his helicopter.
The winter sports park, which will house ski jumps and ultimately a bobsled and luge run, will be the first Olympic facility finished by the Utah Sports Authority.
The sports authority has about $59 million in tax dollars to spend on winter sports facilities. In addition to the winter sports park, ice rinks and a speed-skating oval are planned.
Because of the bobsled and luge run, the winter sports park carries the highest price tag. The total cost will be some $37 million, including $20 million for the bobsled and luge track, set to begin construction next year.
Officials of U.S. Skiing said Monday they are eager for the ski jumps to open so would-be Olympians as well as newcomers to the sport can begin training.
"It's unbelievable what the potential is," said Alan Johnson, director of nordic combined ski jumping. Jeff Chumas, director of freestyle ski jumping, called the opening of the park "a tremendous opportunity."