A full-time Olympic watchdog shouldn't become a nuisance to organizers of the 2002 Winter Games, a lawmaker who serves as co-chairman of the Legislature's Sports Advisory Committee warned.
"There's got to be absolutely a rationale for the position in every way," Rep. Jordan Tanner, R-Provo, said during a meeting of the oversight committee Tuesday.Tanner said it's critical that the position created by lawmakers last session not create work for and "obviously hound the Olympic organizing committee and become a nuisance."
Currently, Utah Auditor Auston Johnson is serving as the state's Olympic coordinator, responsible for reviewing Salt Lake Organizing Committee budgets and contracts.
The legislation calls for the governor to hire a full-time Olympic coordinator in July 1997, but its sponsor has suggested that date could be postponed for a year or more.
That's fine with Tanner, who said after the meeting that holding off on hiring a full-time coordinator could be the recommendation of the Sports Advisory Committee after it reviews the need for the position this fall.
"We want to make sure the position contributes to the overall work of the Olympics and is not just another job that we put on the books," Tanner said. "As we get closer and closer, I think it'll be more and more important."
Johnson told the committee Tuesday that he really hasn't done much yet other than introduce himself to Olympic organizers. But the auditor said he believes the position is important.
"We don't want to wait too long," Johnson said. "I don't think the coordinator is going to be an obstacle in what's going on as long as . . . the relationship is not adversarial."
The 1996 Legislature approved five Olympic-related bills after agreeing not to debate the issue in previous sessions. Olympic backers feared any discussion could hurt the city's chances of winning the 2002 Winter Games.
Besides the Olympic coordinator legislation, lawmakers endorsed studying Olympism, producing Olympic license plates, selling the state's Olympic facilities and capping state spending on those facilities.
They got the idea for the Olympic coordinator from the Georgia Legislature, which established the position to oversee the state's interests in organizing the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.
Unlike Georgia, Utah is financially responsible for the Olympics. The state indemnified Salt Lake City against any losses from serving as the host city of the 2002 Winter Games.
Utah's Olympics, which carry a $1 billion price tag, are being paid for out of revenues from selling broadcast rights, corporate sponsorships and other Games revenues.
The state's taxpayers are investing $59 million in Olympic facilities, including a bobsled and luge track under construction. The privately funded Salt Lake Organizing Committee will buy the facilities in 1999.