Organizers of the 2002 Winter Games are likely to get at least $1.8 million from the U.S. Olympic Committee to cover the cost of finishing several Olympic facilities ahead of schedule so athletes can start training sooner.
The money would come from an $18 million program, Podium 2002, announced this week by the USOC to help American athletes win more medals in Salt Lake City's Olympics.The USOC and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee could reach agreement as soon as next week on how much is needed to speed construction on the speed-skating oval in Kearns and the ski jumps near Park City.
"It's clear the longer athletes have to train, the more likely they'll be successful. We're bearing this in mind," SLOC Chief Executive Officer Frank Joklik said.
But there's not enough money in the current $1 billion-plus organizing committee budget to pay for getting those facilities ready any faster. The oval is scheduled to be covered by the fall of 2000, the jumps by that November.
"We have to be budget-conscious," Joklik said. "We're talking in terms of several million dollars. . . . In our budget, we're trying to do everything on an as-needed basis."
SLOC's schedule gets both projects done in time to hold test events before the Olympics. The World Single Distance Championship is scheduled to be held at the oval in March 2001.
But the USOC wants athletes to have the chance to start training at the facilities a season earlier and has asked that the speed-skating oval be done at least by summer and the jumps, six months sooner.
The Podium 2002 program approved Sunday by the USOC's executive committee includes $1.8 million for facility needs and another $1.2 million to get athletes to Utah's Olympic venues.
The rest of the $18 million in the new program would go to the national governing bodies for winter sports for athlete development. Allocations will begin by mid-August, USOC President Bill Hybl said.
The amount set aside for facility needs is not final, he said. "The fact is, this is a general summary of the funding available," Hybl said. "It could be more or less."
Hybl said he plans to meet with Joklik and other organizing committee officials on the issue when he comes to Salt Lake for a meeting of the SLOC Board of Trustees on July 9.
Money for the USOC program is not coming from the proceeds of a joint marketing venture with the organizing committee to sell sponsorships to the 2002 Winter Games and the U.S. teams, said USOC spokesman Mike Moran.
Instead, it's coming from money raised by the USOC itself. All but $7.6 million is already available in the USOC's budget, Moran said, much of it in a grant program that's being replaced.
The new performance-based grant program, in addition to the $18 million for 2002 Winter Games hopefuls, includes $8 million for athletes headed to the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.
In the past, the emphasis has been on summer sports, where the U.S. team traditionally does well. The United States has been the top medal winner in only one Winter Games, in Lake Placid, N.Y., in 1932.
"It just seemed to me that winter sports, from my perspective, were sort of neglected a little bit," said Jim Morris, a New York attorney who heads the USOC's winter sports council.
That's going to change in 2002, Morris said. "It's not going to be business as usual," he said. "I think people have a right to expect we're going to do well in Salt Lake. Hopefully, we won't disappoint."