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SLOC uses up part of emergency fund

Salt Lake Organizing Committee trustees are dipping into contingency funds to cover more than $18 million in unexpected costs associated with the 2002 Winter Games.

The unanimous decision made Thursday by members of the SLOC Management Committee reduces the amount of money available for unforeseen expenses to slightly more than $55 million, in a budget of more than $1.3 billion.

"I will be happy if $55 million is sufficient for us to break even," said Nolan Karras, a former Utah House speaker who represents Gov. Mike Leavitt on the committee. "I frankly don't think there's enough in the reserve at this point."

SLOC President Mitt Romney has said he wants to raise another $20 million from corporate sponsors and individual donors to boost the size of the contingency fund. It had been as high as $140 million.

But organizers are still some $62 million short of what they expected from sponsorships and donations. Also, trustees agreed in January to tap the contingency fund for the first time, taking $4 million for security costs.

Add to that the $18.7 million in contingency funds now needed for a variety of expenses, mostly related to setting up at ski areas and other venues weeks earlier than originally planned, and the contingency fund drops to slightly more than $55 million.

Romney is saying now that there's little chance of finding money to enhance the Games unless contributors come forward. He has said he wants to spend millions more on the opening and closing ceremonies at Rice-Eccles Stadium than the $20 million budgeted.

He said none of the expenditures approved Thursday were additions to the budget. Instead, they reflect the actual cost of doing some of the things already in the budget, such as running video boards at various venues.

The organizing committee's budget did not take into account that some $3 million in personnel and equipment, including trailers at the venue sites, would be needed to actually operate the video boards.

One area where SLOC is still bringing in money is ticket sales. To date, organizers have sold $162 million in tickets, more than twice the amount they say was earned by the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.

Romney said, however, it will be a challenge to sell the remaining $18 million in tickets needed to meet revenue projections, especially since some high-demand events are sold out and most of the good seats at other events are gone.

What's left will be sold at the highest price SLOC can get, Romney said, although he announced there will be another 5,200 discounted tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies made available only to Utahns.

SLOC spokeswoman Caroline Shaw said today the price of those tickets has not been finalized, but it will be less than the $885 now being charged for seats in the stadium. She also said no date has been set for the tickets to go on sale.

Also at Thursday's management committee meeting, Olympic trustees agreed in concept with the World Health Organization that the 2002 Games should be tobacco-free. The details of how that will be done, especially at outdoor venues, are yet to be drafted.

Trustees got a look, too, during their closed session at a model of the medals plaza planned for a downtown parking lot near the Delta Center. The property is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The plaza will hold as many as 20,000 people for free concerts and nightly ceremonies to award gold, silver and bronze medals to athletes. "It's large," Jim Easton, a U.S. member of the International Olympic Committee. "I just hope people fill it up every day."

Anita DeFrantz, an IOC vice president from the United States, said she's curious about how athletes will react to such a large crowd. "I don't know if it makes a difference how many people are there," she said.