Hosting the 2002 Winter Games could hurt Utah's quality of life, hitting the state's poor the hardest, first-year Salt Lake City Councilman Stuart Reid fears.
Housing costs, taxes, crime and access to alcohol could all increase if Salt Lake City is successful in its Olympic bid, Reid said during a recent City Council meeting."A lot of people are going to benefit from the cost of living being driven up. . . . It's going to be a real boon for people who have means," he explained in an interview.
"We can become starry-eyed about the Olympics and say it's a great thing, but are we planning for the impact it will have on the poor?" Reid asked. "All I'm asking is - and I plan to continue to talk about this - what are we going to do?"
Government leaders say it's too soon to be asking. "Some of it is like worrying about how you're going to send your child to college, and you're not even pregnant yet," is how one state official put it.
Planning for potential problems won't even start until Salt Lake City is awarded the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee is set to select the site of the 2002 Winter Games next year.
But that hasn't stopped the state from calculating the benefits of hosting the Winter Games. An economic analysis prepared for the failed 1998 bid currently is being updated for the 2002 bid.
That analysis showed the 1998 Winter Games could have added $1.46 billion to the Utah economy, including an average increase in income per resident of some $400 and nearly 20,000 new jobs. But there is no mention of any downside to hosting the Olympics.
Reid may be the first government official to publicly question the real value of an Olympics in Utah since the latest bid effort began in the late 1980s with an unsuccessful attempt to win the 1998 Winter Games.
And while Reid hasn't come out against the Olympics, he's said he's prepared to if his concerns aren't addressed. With the IOC vote less than a year away, bid backers are no doubt worried.
He said he's already felt some pressure, when he suggested he wasn't ready to support a resolution endorsing both the bid and an agreement with the state to protect the city against any Olympic debt.
Reid ended up voting for the resolution at the July 8 council meeting, even though he said he still hasn't had enough time to make up his mind about the Olym-pics.
"It was expressed to me that if I voted no, it would make international news and the bid would fail," he said. "I did say I was prepared to oppose (the Olympics) if alcoholic beverage control standards are lessened, and I'm serious about that."
Reid, an employee of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who served as an Army chaplain, opposes relaxing government control over the sale of alcohol.
There has been talk of finding ways to make it easier for Olympic visitors to get a drink, even of the possibility of replacing the state's private club system with bars.
Most government officials, however, have said the only changes in the state's liquor laws that would need to be made are to increase the number of private club licenses available, at least during the Games.
Reid said he doesn't necessarily oppose more licenses but is worried about attempts to make liquor more readily available, something he believes would adversely affect Utah's quality of life.
"If we have a community with certain standards and values and people are happy with those standards and values, are we willing to give them up for the Olympics?" he asked.
Reid also thinks the Olympics could attract criminals to the state who want to take advantage of the huge crowds the event will draw, resulting in increased crime, drugs and pornography.
Most of all, though, Reid wants to prevent the poor from being hurt. He said he's not convinced taxes won't be increased to pay for the Olympics, even though government leaders and bid officials promise otherwise.
And no one may be able to stop increases in the cost of living, especially in housing. In Atlanta, where the 1996 Summer Games will be held, apartments are being booked for between $110 and $200 a night and houses for much more.
Atlanta officials say no one there will be displaced for the month or so that the apartments and homes will be occupied because of a high turnover rate for rentals. Utah's rental market is much tighter.
Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini said Reid's concerns may be unfounded because the community's quality of life is a big selling point for the bid.
"There is no attempt to change what we have going right now. That's part of the appeal," the mayor said. "The standards we have today are one of the reasons that Salt Lake is so appealing to some IOC members."
And Gov. Mike Leavitt's chief of staff, Charlie Johnson, said the state's rapid economic growth is already forcing the state to find ways to head off many of the potential problems that Reid cites.
Tom Welch, head of the Salt Lake Olympic Bid Committee, said nothing should be done just for the Winter Games. "We have adopted a policy that change ought not to occur solely because of the Olympics," he said.
Reid said he may agree there's no cause for worry - after he's gotten answers to the questions he's raised. He is surprised that his questions haven't already been asked.
"I don't mind being the only person on the issue, but I do mind if it's never been reviewed before," Reid said. "We may be going headlong into this without a full and proper review."