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Utahns urged to rally behind Games

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Utahns need to get behind organizers of the 2002 Winter Games, a top official of the International Olympic Committee said Friday.

IOC Vice President Anita DeFrantz said Utahns should show support for organizers of the 2002 Winter Games even if they don't always know what's going on. Such support, she said, is key to the success of the Games."I think they can do more," DeFrantz said.

What does she expect from Utahns?

"For the community to say, `We're going to support (organizers) and let them get their work done.' "

She said the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's "task is very difficult, and they can't tell you every minute what they're doing. (The public) should be satisfied these folks are doing a good job."

SLOC Chairman Bob Garff acknowledged Friday that Utahns are nervous and frustrated that they don't know more about the Games. Garff said organizers are feeling the pressure and asked for the public's patience.

"We need time to make our plans," he said. "We want to make it as public as we can. We just hope the public will be patient with us. We have 31/2 years to go."

DeFrantz's comments came during a break in a closed-door meeting of the IOC Coordination Commission for the 2002 Winter Games at the organizing committee's downtown headquarters.

It's not the first time she has suggested the public should stay out of the planning for the $1 billion-plus event so the organizing committee can work in peace.

Last April, when SLOC clamped down on the release of "nonpublic" information, she said letting the public know what organizers are considering before decisions are made leads to confusion.

"You can't have a lot of discussion in public. It's not the same as running the state. It's an event," DeFrantz said then.

Jean-Claude Killy, who headed up the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France, said in an interview earlier this week that organizers should keep the public informed.

"Do it as we did. Try to communicate with the community as much as you can. Tell them what's going on. It's not visible at all, so you have to tell them," Killy told Deseret News columnist Lee Benson.

Ken Bullock, a member of the SLOC board of trustees and the executive director of the Utah League of Cities and Towns, said organizers are going to have to be more open if they want the public's trust.

"They feel very disenfranchised," Bullock said. "The public would have a sense of confidence if they had a better understanding . . . if they could feel part of the Games rather than just writing a check."

DeFrantz said she wasn't talking about money when she spoke of support. Utah taxpayers have already contributed $59 million to build Olympic facilities, money that organizers have promised to repay.

Sixty-seven percent of Utahns do support hosting the 2002 Winter Games, according to the most recent Deseret News poll. The poll, taken in March by Dan Jones, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

The third-annual meeting of the coordination commission, which includes representatives of the IOC, athletes, sports organizations and national Olympic committees, is scheduled to end Saturday morning.

Members of the commission will have spent three days here checking up on the organizing committee's progress on everything from athlete housing to telecommunications systems.

Marc Hodler, an IOC member from Switzerland who heads the commission, said there's a lot of work to be done. "The magnitude of still-necessary constructions overwhelms us a little," Hodler said.

The commission's findings will be submitted to the IOC. The IOC has already expressed concern that SLOC isn't moving fast enough, especially when it comes to filling key positions.

Deseret News columnist Lee Benson contributed to this report.