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Guide to the Games on way

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City planners call it the "Olympic theater," and like it or not, every Salt Laker has a part to play in the drama.

Whether the 2002 Winter Games will be a tragedy or a triumph for residents depends largely on the details: traffic, logistics, safety. So this week, Salt Lake City's chief Olympic orchestrator, John Sittner, is mailing out the first in a series of guides to the Games.

The 16-page booklet, to be sent to 100,000 Salt Lake-area households and businesses, is a kind of panoramic shot of February 2002.

"We're trying to give people a comfort zone," Sittner said, to reassure residents that "we know what we're doing, and they will be able to get around." The guide also urges Salt Lakers to attend the city's first Olympic open house on Wednesday, Aug. 1, at the Salt Palace.

"This is an opportunity for people to come and ask questions" of city transportation planners, event organizers and volunteer coordinators, Sittner said. "These are the decisionmakers," and they will await questions at tables set up all over the Palace.

Mayor Rocky Anderson and Salt Lake Organizing Committee president Mitt Romney will give brief remarks at 6 p.m., and Sittner will present an Olympic overview to start the open house. But the bulk of the event, from 7 to 9 p.m., will be devoted to addressing citizens' concerns. NAPAH, the organization of Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, African American and Hispanic artists, will provide entertainment.

This week's booklet, Sittner added, is the first of four to seven saturation mailings "to foster the juices of enthusiasm" and to spark questions, not explain everything. And more open houses will be held, each of them on a Wednesday evening. The final mailing will cover the finer details, such as bus schedules and where various neighborhood festivals will be during the Games.

About a month after open house No. 1, Salt Lake City's volunteer recruitment will shift to high gear. City volunteers, who'll help run the downtown arts festival and free-speech area among other things, will need to sign up for eight or perhaps 15 hours of duty and purchase the city's $100 Olympic jacket. "Or if the coat is a problem, the city can chip in and help," he said. Volunteers must be at least 16.

Several months ago the city chipped in some $230,000 for the blue jackets its officials and staffers will wear come Games time.

One of the more interesting volunteer posts could turn out to be at the city's lost-and-found center.

"In Sydney they had three semis full of lost items left" after the 2000 Summer Games ended, Sittner said. "There were very expensive items, like camcorders, that the owners just assumed were gone . . . and they had in excess of $100,000 in cash that was turned in." To keep accurate accounts, two staffers will check in each item lost at Salt Lake Olympic venues, Sittner added.

Salt Lake City's Olympic lost and found center, at 615 S. 200 East, will be open 15-18 hours a day during the Games. Just before the Games begin, it will be consolidated with the city's call center, reachable at 535-NEED (6333).

Right now the 535-NEED number is available to Salt Lakers who have questions about community affairs in general. For 2002 Winter Games-related concerns, residents can call the Olympic planning office at 535-7733.

E-mail: durbani@desnews.com