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GAMES ANNOUNCEMENT SPAWNS VARIED REACTIONS

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Olympics quiz: The June 16 announcement that Salt Lake City would host the 2002 Winter Olympics resulted in:

An avalanche of phone calls from people who suddenly realize Utah may have something more to offer than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a smelly salt-water lake.A collective yawn of indifference by a public who finds it hard to get excited about winter sports while trying to cool off by the pool.

Record T-shirt sales.

All of the above.

The answer, of course, is "d." The Olympics announcement has generated a variety of responses. The Utah Travel Council reports almost no additional inquiries resulting from the announcement. On the other side of the same coin, the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau has been swamped with Olympics-related calls, most of them coming from the media.

"We expected it (a flurry of calls for information) but haven't seen anything out of the ordinary," said Spence Kinard, assistant director of the Utah Travel Council. "There has been some comment and some congratulations about tickets, but it hasn't impacted us yet."

Different story at the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Initially, the response was incredible," said Jerri Cartwright. "It has slowed to a somewhat more sane level, but the interest is still there."

At one point, the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee was logging about 100 calls a day from the media.

"Reporters tend to think Salt Lake, not Utah, when they call for information," Cartwright said. "And you can bet that when those articles start coming out, the Travel Council will see a surge in (tourism) interest in the state."

One arena where the Olympic announcement has had an impact is in the booking of conventions, Cartwright said. Several groups that finally decided on Salt Lake City have mentioned the Olympics as a factor in their decision.

"The announcement gave us immediate credibility with those clients," Cartwright said. "They say, `Well, since you have the Olympics, I guess we'll come there.' It put us over the top."

Since the announcement, about six organizations have decided to hold conventions in Salt Lake City, bringing with them a total of 18,000 delegates worth an estimated $15 million to the Utah economy.

Travel Council officials expect a steady growth in interest in Utah tourism due to all the media interest in the state. But with Utah tourism mushrooming prior to the an-nounce-ment, it is difficult to say how much of the future growth can be attributed to the Olympics.

Nonetheless, the Olympics have become a major part of Utah's marketing strategy. State officials plan to use the Olympic bid in their winter advertising campaigns set to kick off in another few weeks. The Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau also uses the Olympic theme at its trade shows.

And Olympic memorabilia is the order of the day when it comes time for state and local officials to give out gifts to visiting dignitaries.

The Utah public has also gone bonkers over Olympic T-shirts and mugs. The gift shop at the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau has experienced record sales since the Olympic announcement, with most of the sales being Olympic memorabilia.

"People are coming in buying 20 or 30 T-shirts at a time," Cartwright said. "We are making regular runs to the Olympic Organizing Committee offices to get more. People are going crazy over this stuff."

If Atlanta's experience with the Summer Games is any indication, Salt Lake City can expect a flurry of media interest for the first 18 months following the announcement. Media attention tends to wane until about two years before the actual games, becoming increasingly frenetic as the games approach.