Facebook Twitter

Foe of alcohol at Games taking fight to Norway

SHARE Foe of alcohol at Games taking fight to Norway

George Van Komen, the Salt Lake City doctor who's leading the fight against the 2002 Winter Games touting an official beer, is taking his crusade to Norway.

Van Komen is a guest speaker at a seminar on alcohol and sports scheduled to start Monday in Oslo. He's talking about his efforts to prevent the Salt Lake Organizing Committee from promoting drinking during the Olympics.Other speakers at the conference include officials of the Norwegian Olympic Committee, who dealt with the issue during the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer.

"The connection between alcohol and sports is a worldwide issue," said Dag Rekve, a leader of AlkoKutt, a Norwegian organization with goals similar to those of Van Komen's Alcohol Policy Coalition.

The pair met last spring at a conference on alcohol policy in Chicago. Rekve told the Deseret News via e-mail that what's happening in Utah is helping to send a signal to the alcohol industry.

Van Komen hopes to repeat what's happened in past Olympics, where official beers such as Budweiser were heavily advertised and also readily available in tented beer halls erected on city streets.

"We want reassurance alcohol does not have as high a profile in Salt Lake City," he said, suggesting limiting alcohol sponsor advertising during the Olympics to designated commercial zones.

He has said Utahns' sensitivity toward alcohol should be considered by Olympic organizers. Members of the predominant faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are expected to abstain from drinking.

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee are earning some $50 million by designating Budweiser as the official beer of the 2002 Winter Games and the U.S. Olympic teams.

In 1994, Rekve said, "it was easy to drink alcohol in the town centers of Lillehammer, Hamar and Gjovik during the Olympics. Many beer tents were put up and new hotels and pubs were built."

Still, he said, there were "very few alcohol-related problems -- at least in the public areas." He credited Norway's extreme cold with keeping people from overindulging.

Like Van Komen, Rekve said he is concerned about the effect the connection between alcohol and sports has on children. "Children and young people constitute an important target group. They represent the market of tomorrow."

Van Komen said even more care should be taken when it comes to mixing alcohol and the Olympics. "The Olympics is a different kind of sporting event than an NFL football game," he said.

The difference is the emphasis the Olympics places on children. SLOC, for example, already has a number of programs aimed at involving Utah youths in sports and education activities related to the Games.

"There's no question children are recruited actively to the Olympics. And it's a family-type activity," Van Komen said.