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The Salt Lake Organizing Committee won lavish praise for its 2002 Winter Games preparations after the first meeting of an International Olympic Committee oversight panel.

Members of the IOC Coordination Commission for the 2002 Winter Games sounded somewhat amazed at the the progress of Salt Lake organizers since the city was awarded the Olympics a year ago.

"My belief is that SLOC is worthy of being in the book of records," Marc Hodler, commission chairman and an IOC vice president from Switzerland, said at a press conference following Tuesday's closed-door meeting.

IOC Director General Francois Carrard, who currently is sitting on coordination commissions for four different Olympics, labeled Salt Lake's efforts to date "one of the finest beginnings ever."

Members of the coordination commission spent more than six hours listening to detailed reports on everything from the legal structure of the Salt Lake committee to where organizers hope to build a new cross-country course.

The closed-door meeting apparently went so smoothly the coordination commission finished an hour earlier than scheduled Tuesday and canceled a half-day session planned for Wednesday.

SLOC President Tom Welch said Hodler put organizers at ease before the meeting with a single piece of advice. "He said, `Just remember, you're with friends,' " an obviously pleased Welch said.

Will such a strong showing go to the heads of Salt Lake organizers? Carrard said no. "We don't feel they are overconfident. On the contrary, we feel they are very serious about their duties," he said.

But even though Salt Lake is well ahead of other Olympic cities in its preparations for hosting the Winter Games, Hodler said there is still plenty of work left to do before 2002.

That includes building several Olympic venues, such as the downhill ski course planned for Snow Basin near Ogden. The ski resort's owner has tied the project to a federal land exchange pending in Congress.

Hodler stopped short of saying the venue could not be built without the government land, but said he hopes the land exchange is approved because North America needs a world-class downhill course.

He also said there is work to be done on the cross-country and biathlon venue, planned for the Mountain Dell golf course and recreation area in Parley's Canyon.

While Olympic organizers want to keep those competitions at Mountain Dell, they want to relocate the cross-country track from the golf course to another portion of the park.

The elevation on the alternative site is a hundred or so meters higher than allowed for Olympic competition, and the project is in a watershed for Salt Lake. Organizers believe both problems can be overcome.

Hodler seemed the least concerned about where the University of Utah will locate the athletes village needed to house some 4,000 competitors and coaches during the Winter Games.

The U. wants to build the new housing on the portion of Fort Douglas now being used by the U.S. Army Reserve. Army officials are willing to move the reserve units - if someone picks up the nearly $100 million price tag.

As long as the village is built somewhere on the U. campus, Hodler indicated he will be satisfied. The U. plans to use the new housing for students after the Olympics.