Now that Salt Lake City has been awarded the 2002 Winter Olympics, state lawmakers are understandably more willing to openly debate legislation related to the Games. The danger of wrongly influencing the International Olympic Committee has passed.
But that doesn't mean the Legislature should begin driving a wedge of suspicion between the people and Olympic organizers.Unfortunately, some lawmakers plan to do just that by sponsoring bills limiting the amount of money taxpayers are asked to spend on the Games. They needn't bother. Olympic organizers already have pledged to spend no more than $59 million to build facilities. That's far less than the $70 million that the 1/32nd of a cent sales tax increase imposed for the Games is expected to raise before 1999.
These same organizers have pledged to repay the state for every penny, using the approximately $800 million they expect to raise through broadcast rights, corporate sponsorships, ticket sales, etc. That figure may be conservative, judging from the $545 million NBC already agreed to pay to secure rights to televise the Salt Lake Games.
State lawmakers intend to watch Olympic expenditures closely. That's good. But they also should respect the integrity of Olympic organizers enough to take them at their word when they promise not to overdraw their public checking account.
The last thing the 2002 Games needs is a needless infusion of mistrust and paranoia.