The 10,000 members of the Sierra Club's Utah chapter have joined the fight against Salt Lake City's bid for the 2002 Winter Games, participants in a debate on the environment and the Olympics were told Tuesday night.
The biggest concern of both the organization and the 75 or so people gathered at the First Unitarian Church appeared to be the population growth and related problems they believe hosting an Olympics would bring."The Olympics' goal at this point seems to be (to focus) more attention on Utah, to promote more growth without thinking about how to handle the growth we already have," said Rudy Lukez, chapter chairman.
Initiative petitions to put a question on the 1996 general election ballot that, if approved by voters, would ban further government spending on the Olympics, were mailed to the 10,000 Sierra Club members last week, Lukez said.
Further, he said, the Sierra Club is preparing a report for the International Olympic Committee detailing with statistics and photo-graphs the level of air pollution along the Wasatch Front in the winter.
The IOC chooses the site of the 2002 Winter Games in June, from among Salt Lake City; Sion, Switzerland; Ostersund, Sweden; and Quebec, Canada. Care of the environment during the Games has become increasingly important to the IOC.
During the nearly two-hour debate, participants repeatedly brought up growth-related issues that would be worsened by bringing in hundreds of thousands of Olympics spectators and new residents attracted by the publicity.
Backers of the bid said more people will come to Utah even if Salt Lake City doesn't get the Games. Myles Rademan, director of public affairs for Park City, said the state "is growing with or without the Olympics."
And he acknowledged the fears expressed by those in the audience about the effect the Olympics could have on the state. "Anything the size of the Olympics is going to attract both idealists . . . and bottom-feeders."
Rademan went on to say it is unfair to saddle the Olympics with growth-related concerns. Although the Wasatch Front will be crowded during the two weeks of the Olym-pics, he said it won't be any worse than a large convention.
But those questioning the value of the Olympics to the Utah lifestyle proposed using the event to force consideration of new ways to cope with growth.
"It's an opportunity to push harder for mass transit," said Sierra Club officer Ivan Weber, suggesting alternatives such as a monorail to Park City or banning cars in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons could be discussed.
Even growth itself could be a topic. "Growth isn't something we accept as just happening," Weber said, noting it's tough to talk about Utah's "culture of propagation."
The debate was sponsored by the Wasatch Front Forum, which is supported by the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Wasatch Mountain Club, Great Salt Lake Audubon, the Utah Nordic Alliance, the Utah Mountain Bike Association, the Utah Wilderness Association and the Citizen's Committee to Save Our Canyons.