Even though Utah County is not likely to host an Olympic venue if Salt Lake City is selected as the site of the 2002 Winter Games, most county residents still support Utah's bid efforts.
And, according to a recent poll conducted for the Deseret News by Dan Jones and Associates, local support for the Olympics would not change much if an Olympic event were planned for Utah County.The poll shows 62 percent of Utah County residents favor Salt Lake City's bid efforts, compared with 21 percent who oppose the Winter Olympics coming to Utah. Seventeen percent of those polled are undecided on how they feel about Utah's Olympic chase.
"I think the support is still there," Salt Lake Olympic Bid Committee President Tom Welch said during a recent visit to Provo.
When those polled were asked whether they are more likely to support the bid if it includes a venue in Utah County, only 58 percent said they would. Sixteen percent said it makes no difference to them whether a venue is located in Utah County. Eighteen percent said they are less likely to support the Olympics if an event is held in Utah County.
The poll of 401 Utah County residents was conducted between Dec. 5 and Dec. 10 and has a margin of error of 5 percent.
Salt Lake City is one of nine bidders for the 2002 Winter Games. That number will be narrowed to four next month. In June, the International Olympic Committee meets to choose the host city for the 2002 Winter Games.
Many experts say Salt Lake City is the front-runner because its winter sports facilities are in place or currently under construction. In 1989 Utah voters approved a referendum to spend $59 million of taxpayer funds to construct the facilities.
It's those taxpayer funds that have some residents balking at Salt Lake City's Olympic plan. Most local officials say that prior to the referendum Utah County was promised a venue and a piece of the tax pie. However, no event is planned for Utah County and none of the $59 million was spent on a facility in Utah County.
Provo officials recently expressed displeasure at the distribution of winter sports facility funds, saying they were promised $3 million to help build a practice ice sheet. Bid organizers responded by promising the city $3 million in 1999 if Salt Lake City wins the bid.
The city doesn't want to wait that long. It will ask the Legislature to allocate another $3 million so the city can begin work on the ice sheet. Bid organizers will support the city's lobbying, but not until after the IOC meets in June.
"I don't think the money will be a problem," Welch said.
At the very least, many Utah County residents believe either the opening or closing ceremonies should be held at Cougar Stadium on the campus of Brigham Young University. Welch said the IOC requires the ceremonies to be held in the host city.
Most Olympic opponents say the games historically have lost money and the same would be true for Salt Lake City. Taxpayers would be left to pay for the Olympic debt.
"This money needs to be spent on education and attracting higher-paying jobs," Orem resident Carol Miles said.
Many also feel the games would ruin Utah's quality of life by creating local inflation and causing an influx of people moving to Utah.
Olympic supporters counter by saying the games would not be a financial burden on taxpayers because the proposed $800 million is conservative and expenditures would not exceed actual revenues.
"We are not going to make our capital expenditures until our revenue is in," Welch said.
What the Olympics would do, Welch said, is provide facilities and infrastructure that the state otherwise would not provide or would have to fund with tax dollars. The Bid Committee is proposing to buy back the Olympic facilities from taxpayers for $59 million and put $40 million into a legacy fund to operate the facilities. Taxpayers also would benefit from increased tourist dollars spent in Utah.
"When people come here, they spend their dollars and go home. We don't have to educate their children, collect their garbage or pave their streets," Welch said.
More important than the financial picture is the state's opportunity to showcase its community pride and its values in life and family, Welch said. The Olympics represent the same ideals shared by most Utah residents, the concepts of fair play, good health, peace and understanding.
"Just the opportunity to set proper values in our young people is worth the effort," he said.
Utah County poll
Do you favor or oppose Salt Lake City's bid for the Winter Olympics?
STRONGLY FAVOR 36%
SOMEWHAT FAVOR 26%
SOMEWHAT OPPOSE 7%
STRONGLY OPPOSE 14%
DON'T KNOW 17%
If the Olympic bid included venues or events in Utah County, would you be more or less likely to support bringing the Olympics to Utah?
MUCH MORE LIKELY 38%
SOMEWHAT MORE LIKELY 20%
MAKES NO DIFFERENCE 16%
SOMEWHAT LESS LIKELY 5%
MUCH LESS LIKELY 13%
DON'T KNOW 7%
Poll conducted Dec. 5-10, 1994. Margin of error +/-5% on interviews of 401 registered voters. Conducted by Dan Jones & Associates. Copyright 1994 Deseret News. Dan Jones & Associates, an independent organization founded in 1980, polls for the Deseret News and KSL. Its clients include other organizations and some political candidates.