Support and respect must be earned and are not given on demand. That makes the recent admonition from International Olympic Committee Vice President Anita DeFrantz for Utahns to better back organizers of the 2002 Winter Games by staying out of the way a bit puzzling.
Beehive State residents have shown stronger support for the Games in recent months that at any time since Salt Lake City was awarded the bid. A Deseret News poll in March indicated 67 percent of Utahns favor hosting Olympic competition, with only 29 percent opposed. Another 78 percent were confident the Salt Lake Organizing Committee will do a first-class job. Surprisingly, the survey even indicated a willingness to use tax dollars for six key areas of organization if needed - including security and community programs.That is strong support by any standard.
More than that, Utahns are eager to pitch in as some of the most volunteer-minded people in the nation. They wish for the 2002 Winter Games to be, in every appropriate sense, their Games.
Yet few know what to do to be supportive and would like to channel their energies into positive Olympic-related pursuits if given the green light to do so.
Even though SLOC is a private entity, it is dependent upon governmental support and cooperation at every level to succeed. Taxpayers, who have fronted $59 million for venue construction, are rightfully interested in budgets and overall progress as plans unfold. The burden of erecting and refining a local infrastructure to welcome the world four years from now is shared by everyone.
DeFrantz noted recently that "you can't have a lot of discussion in public. It's not the same as running the state. It's an event."
That may be true at times. Some matters are best kept close to the vest until details are negotiated. But only treating the public openly as partners will result in the support suggested by DeFrantz.
Jean-Claude Killy, who headed the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France, suggested that organizers communicate with the public as much as possible. "Tell them what's going on. It's not visible at all, so you have to tell them."
That kind of candor leads to trust, respect and support. It counters feelings of disenfranchisement by an eager public willing to pitch in.