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Coalition presents anti-alcohol Games plan

A group of anti-alcohol crusaders will try again to limit and control drinking during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

For the Utah Alcohol Policy Coalition, the two-week Olympic Games bring with them great threats: children and members of the Utah community in closer-than-usual proximity to the more liberal drinking habits of the visitors, athletes and journalists from around the world; beer tents; sports and venues draped in alcohol sponsorship, logos and advertisements.The coalition -- led by physician and anti-alcohol advocate George Van Komen -- has had little success lobbying the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to the coalition's way of thinking.

The group has had less luck airing its gripes to beer brewing conglomerate Anheuser-Busch, a financial sponsor of the Games.

"We don't plan to give Anheuser-Busch the boot, but we'd love to hold their feet to the fire," Dr. Van Komen said.

So the coalition is taking its case to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

On Friday, Van Komen presented a seven-point plan to the group that regu- lates the sale and consumption of alcohol in Utah.

Van Komen and members of the coalition fear Anheuser-Busch and other parties who can profit from greater sales of beer, wine and other liquor will pressure the commission to relax laws during the Games. And on Friday, the coalition fired its first warning shot to the commission in a stern message: "Don't try it."

"Hopefully (the commission) will realize we as members of the community will be watching this very closely," Van Komen said.

Under pressure from the state's hospitality industry, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has hosted a handful of special public meetings for the purpose of discussing issues related to liquor laws in Utah.

Van Komen's comments came at one of these public meetings.

What Van Komen calls the "Healthy Alcohol Policies Plan" includes the following goals:

Limit alcohol advertising to sites away from areas where youth will gather.

No beer tents, beer gardens or any other creative way to sell large volumes of beer during the Olympics. The commission can control this, according to the plan, by limiting special-event permits.

Both opening and closing ceremonies will take place on a college campus. Strictly enforce the law that prohibits consumption of alcohol on college campuses.

The alcohol advertising used during the Olympics should definitely not appeal to children, and the use of animated animals should not be used to promote beer.

Prevent any attempt to sell high volumes of alcoholic beverages during the Olympics outside present law -- especially if the 2002 Olympics accepts beer as an "in-kind" donation.

Discourage any proposals to change current liquor laws. "Our present laws are working, and we need not try and change our liquor laws to promote increased sales and consumption during the 2002 Winter Olympics," the plan reads.

Before his presentation to the commission, Van Komen said Anheuser-Busch will make a $50 million "in-kind" donation to the Olympics. "But if that means providing a lot of alcohol . . . we're concerned that will create a lot more social problems, more breaking of laws, public intoxication and that type of thing."

The coalition has two ancillary goals, Van Komen told the commission.

He has received so much international and national support for his "alcohol-safe" efforts for the Games that he is building an international coalition to further his goals.

The Alcohol Policy Coalition also announced a renewed effort to lower Utah's legal blood alcohol content level for driving from .08 percent to .04 percent.

In countries where the Olympics have been held during the past 10 years, an "interesting" pattern of legal blood alcohol levels has been passed into law.

Olympic cities have the following legal limits of blood alcohol content: Albertville, France, 1992 Winter Olympics, .055 percent blood alcohol content; Barcelona, Spain, 1992 Summer Games, .05 percent; Lillehammer, Norway, 1994 Winter Games, .05 percent; Atlanta, 1996 Summer Games, .10 percent; Nagano, Japan, 1998 Winter Games, 0 percent; Sydney, Australia, 2000 Summer Games, .05 percent.

Although anti-alcohol advocates have tried unsuccessfully to lower the legal blood alcohol content level to .04 percent, Van Komen said in a prepared statement the new level "would make us more in line with other countries who have hosted or will host the Olympics during the past decade or in the near future."