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MOST UTAHNS DUBIOUS ABOUT GAMES FUNDING

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Most Utahns believe taxpayers may have to shell out more money if the Olympic Winter Games are held here.

They still, by a very narrow margin, would support Salt Lake City in a bid attempt for the Games in 2006 if the bid for the 2002 Games fails.That's the finding of a statewide Deseret News/KSL poll conducted by Dan Jones and Associates.

An opponent of the bid campaign said the survey bolsters his belief that Utahns need to vote on the Olympics issue again. And a bid supporter believes when the public sees how carefully the bid has been assembled, much of the worry will fade.

Poll respondents were asked about the $800 million Games budget, which has a 10 percent fund to cover cost overruns. Taxpayers, according to the budget, are not expected to have to pay any more to fund the Games.

Most of those surveyed - 63 percent - said they are somewhat or very pessimistic about funding the Games without more taxpayer assistance; 31 percent were optimistic to some degree; and 5 percent said they didn't know.

Fifty-two percent of those questioned said they would favor another bid attempt for 2006, while 42 percent said they would oppose another attempt and 6 percent were undecided.

Jim Jardine, legal counsel for the bid committee, said he believes the poll shows Utahns would like to host the Games.

When the site announcement is made in June, bid promoters will have been at it for eight years, he said. "If you ask any marathoner when they finish a race if they want to run one again, they say no. I don't think anyone has contemplated what will happen if we don't get the Games. I think this (the poll) shows tremendous residual support."

Not so, according to Steve Pace of Utahns for Responsible Spending, which opposes Utah's bid attempt.

"This doesn't sound like a mandate to keep going. I would think if there's that kind of split, there needs to be another election before the public sector signs off on an at-risk contract to guarantee the Games. We're operating now on totally different premises than what the backers originally said."

Pace isn't convinced by the promises that taxpayers won't be asked to do more.

"The Olympics budgets don't go sour eight years before the Games are held. They always start out looking rosy. (The sites that had financial problems) all looked good eight years before the fact. It's about two years before (the Games) that things start to go sour."

Jardine, on the other hand, believes people are pessimistic because other Olympic sites have faced deficits. The level of care and planning that has gone into Utah's budget proposal gives officials confidence, he said.

"We have a full-time cost-estimater from one of the most respected engineering firms in the country double check our numbers. I don't know of any city that has ever submitted such a sophisticated budget."

The survey was answered by 605 Utah adults and has an error margin of plus or minus 4 percent.

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Additional Information

Deseret News/KSL poll

If Utah is not chosen next June to host the 2002 Winter Olympics, would you favor or oppose trying again for the 2006 Games?

Strongly favor 31%

Somewhat favor 21%

Somewhat oppose 13%

Strongly oppose 29%

Don't know 6%

How optimistic are you that Utah can host the Winter Olympics without asking taxpayers for more money?

Very optimistic 9%

Somewhat optimistic 22%

Somewhat pessimistic 28%

Very pessimistic 35%

Don't know 5%

Margin of error +- 4.0%

Sample size: 605 Utahns, age 18 and over.

Poll conducted Aug. 23-25, 1994. 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.