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Coming Monday: Olympic plates

Coming soon to a bumper in front of you - the official license plate of the 2002 Winter Games.

State lawmakers and Salt Lake Olympic organizers gathered at the Capitol Thursday to unveil the special plate, which will go on sale Monday.Better hurry, though. It's only available for the next five years.

"As you can see, they are very classy plates," said Senate Minority Leader Scott Howell, sponsor of a bill two years ago that led to the plate's creation. "I think they will be something everyone will want."

The plates, which feature the 2002 Games logo on a white background, will cost $22 a year. Of that, $15 will go to the Olympics for Youth and Children Fund and $7 will cover production and administrative costs.

Proceeds from the sale of Olympic plates, expected to be at least $1 million, will be used to involve Utah children in the Games. Much of the money will be spent on tickets for children who would not otherwise be able to attend Olympic events.

Olympic organizers want Utah kids to be at least as much a part of the 2002 Games as Japanese children were during the recently completed 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, if not more so.

Salt Lake Organizing Committee president Frank Joklik said the participation of children in the opening ceremonies at Nagano was "tremendously moving" and that the involvement of children in the 2002 Games is a top priority for his committee.

"This license plate (proposed) by Sen. Howell, I think, is a tremendous step in the right direction," Joklik said during an appearance in the Senate chambers. "It will be a great help in implementing our ambition to help all children in Utah participate in hosting the Olympics."

A group of seventh graders, each given the honorary title of "junior ambassador," surrounded Howell, Joklik and other Olympic and government officials at a noontime press conference.

"This is certainly a very tangible way that everyone in Utah can participate (in Olympics preparation), certainly every Utahn who owns a car," offered Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini.

Bob Garff, an auto dealer who chairs the organizing committee, said he will encourage car dealerships to promote purchase of the special plates.

"If everyone supported this plate it could raise millions of dollars," he said.

The plates can be obtained through the Division of Motor Vehicles, 1-800-DMV-UTAH, and local car dealerships. A motorcycle version of the plate should be ready by midsummer.