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Forum touts Games as image-builder

Officials see a chance to charm visitors, Utahns

Utah's big Olympic payoff won't be entirely monetary — it will come in the form of a new image of the state, said officials gathered Monday. During a forum on planning for the 2002 Winter Games, state, local and Olympic leaders predicted that the world would see the Mountain West in a new light if Utahns play their cards right.

In a kind of Winter Games 101 classroom setting Monday afternoon, about 30 mayors, commissioners and other government types gathered at Memorial House in Salt Lake City. With Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson as the host and cheerleader, they hammered out some basics of how to charm Olympic visitors and Utahns alike when they converge next February.

"Even if it were not for the economic development" that is hoped for, "these Games are worth pursuing, for the community-building that can take place," Anderson said.

It took copious tossing-around of verbiage for the officials to reach consensus on anything during Monday's forum. After speeches by Salt Lake City Olympic planner John Sittner, who resembled a runner on an endless sprint, and Rip Rippetoe, director of Visitor Information Services (VIS) of Utah, the group did decide to produce a statewide calendar of events before and during the 2002 Games. Sittner expects the first draft of the calendar to appear this summer on the VIS Web site, www.saltlakeinfo.org, and the Salt Lake City site, www.ci.slc.ut.us.

E-mailing and handing out such calendars to Games-goers will flesh out their Utah experience, Sittner said. "People can add a day or two" to visit other towns or attend a local festival.

But Rippetoe said VIS is already taking calls from unhappy people who can't find lodging in Salt Lake City during the Olympics. "We're booking rooms in Nephi, Wendover, Logan" and beyond, he said. The next question those callers ask is "What else is there to do" in Utah, and what is there to do for free? Hence the demand for the events calendar.

Avenues-Capitol Hill Community Council member Peter Corroon came to the forum with ideas for how to give visitors a personalized Salt Lake experience. "Many of you have traveled," he said to the assembly, "and what you remember is not necessarily the sites you visited but the people you met." His council is arranging dinner parties, city tours guided by locals, concerts by local musicians and lodging at local homes for athletes' families during the Games.

But Utahns must also be careful not to neglect their own neighbors, said state Olympic officer Lane Beattie. "If you're planning on only filling your Olympic venues with Olympic visitors, I feel sorry for you. Our job is to fill our streets with Utahns."

Sittner urged community leaders to give him more such input, be it the seed of an idea or a fully planned event. He can be reached at 535-7733 or via e-mail at john.sittner@ci.slc.ut.us .


E-MAIL: durbani@desnews.com