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IOC is in town checking out S.L. progress on Olympics

SHARE IOC is in town checking out S.L. progress on Olympics

Standing atop the new tower at Rice Stadium, Italian International Olympic Committee member Ottavio Cinquanta swept his arm toward the still snow-capped peaks of the Wasatch Mountains.

"Look at this view. It is excellent," Cinquanta said.The man beside him, Chihuaru Igaya, an IOC member from Japan, agreed. "Were you here two years ago? The stadium was very small. We wondered how it would be expanded. Now we know."

That's exactly why members of the IOC Coordination Commission for the 2002 Winter Games are in Salt Lake City this week. Not for the view, but to see for themselves the progress Olympic organizers are making.

"I hope we can bring some ideas, experience and expertise," said the commission's chairman, Marc Hodler, an IOC member from Switzerland who's overseen preparations for past Winter Games.

Thursday afternoon's tour of Rice Stadium, which is scheduled for completion in August, offered them a good example, even though it's still a busy construction site.

The stadium, which will seat 50,000 during the Olympics, thanks to the $43.5 million expansion project, is where opening and closing ceremonies for the 2002 Winter Games will be held.

But after the five IOC members taking the tour were led onto the grassy field and through the top floors of the seven-story tower, some started to tire and asked to leave.

A trip the members had requested out to the Olympic speed skating oval at the Oquirrh Park Fitness Center in Kearns, planned to take place after the stadium visit, was cancelled.

Instead, the visitors were whisked back to their hotel to get ready for a 7 p.m. dinner. Most had spent much of the day in meetings of working groups covering everything from marketing to sports.

Friday, the full commission was to begin meetings. The closed-door session is set to end in time for members to get ready for a 6 p.m. dinner date with Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Frank Joklik at his home.

The third annual gathering of the commission, which is made up of IOC members and staff as well as athletes and representatives of international sports federations and national Olympic committees, ends Saturday.

By then, the commission should have a good feel for how well SLOC is doing in getting ready for 2002. There has been some concern raised in recent months that the organizing committee is lagging.

The IOC Executive Board, which receives regular updates from the organizing committee and the coordination commission, has been pressing for organizers to make some key hires, particularly a sports director.

Although some hires have occurred, that position has not yet been filled. Organizing committee leaders hope to have someone in place by the end of the summer.

If they appear not to be moving fast enough in this and other areas, organizers say it's because much of their effort is being poured into preparing a new budget.

A much more detailed budget is expected to be completed in September, with the help of a consultant earning $750,000. It's anticipated the new figures will exceed the current $1 billion-plus price tag for the Winter Games.