First came the money. Now comes a money man to manage Salt Lake City's long-anticipated hosting of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
With a record-setting $555 million TV rights deal with NBC already signed almost seven years before the first event, the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee announced Friday that it had picked Utah's finance director, Gordon Crabtree, as its chief operating officer.Crabtree will be presented to the committee's board of trustees for approval next week, said committee president Tom Welch.
As Utah's financial chief, Crabtree oversaw the financial blueprint for Salt Lake's bid. "He brings a great deal of credibility and knowledge of the Olympic experience," Welch said.
Speaking at a news conference during the U.S. Olympic Committee's annual congress, Welch praised Atlanta's organizing efforts for next summer's Olympics and said that gave an immense boost - and an immense challenge - to his group.
"We have been able to go to school at Billy's expense," he said, referring to Billy Payne, president of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.
"I'm sure the Atlanta Centennial Games will be everything we have promised the world they would be. Salt Lake City is faced with the enviable challenge of taking that magical moment and transforming it into a winter setting in 2002."
That challenge is made easier by the NBC deal, part of a $1.27 billion package for U.S. television rights to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 as well as Salt Lake City.
"Timing is everything, and we are not in the business of gambling," Welch said. "The contract brought us $89 million more than our budget. You can't be greedy."
Some have criticized Welch for jumping at the NBC money so soon, arguing that Salt Lake City undersold itself by negotiating so far ahead of the event.
"I don't know what would have happened if we had said, `No,' " Welch said. "When they came to $555 million, I said, `That's enough.' We had two months of negotiations, and at the end of the day it was a contract that is very good for us."
The $555 million NBC deal includes $10 million in advertising time to promote the state. Utah is also expected to be showcased on a weekly program about the Olym-pics that the network will broadcast through 2002.
"I hope we can create an experience as uplifting as Lillehammer was to Norway and the world" in 1994, Welch said.