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‘Games face’ still sketchy

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With one month until the Olympics descend on Salt Lake City, the "look of the Games" consists mostly of flasher barricades, white tents and chain-link fence.

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee has put up less than half of the dozen gigantic images of athletes that downtown buildings will sport. Banners of various colors are fluttering on light poles along some streets and thoroughfares around the valley. But save the 2002 Winter Games decorative manhole covers, that's about it so far.

The dearth of Olympic color hasn't gone unnoticed by several out-of-town journalists or local residents.

"I basically thought that it would look a lot like Hannibal's army coming in, but it's been pretty anticlimactic," said Kevin Probasco, who commutes from Davis County.

Salt Lake resident Melissa Tibbitts says the streets are "starting to look a little more Olympic" but she's still "looking for stuff to happen."

And officials say stuff will happen as Salt Lake City's Games face is still in the making.

"It's coming. It is coming. I guarantee it's coming," said Lane Beattie, state Olympic officer.

Some decorations, he said, are being saved until the end to keep them from being ruined in the weather or stolen before the Games begin.

One of the most visible signs was unveiled Tuesday morning. SLOC pulled the cover off the Olympic caldron perched on the south grandstand at the University of Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Even unlighted, the gleaming 117-foot tower strikes an eye-catching pose above the Salt Lake Valley.

SLOC President Mitt Romney said organizers have much to do in the next four weeks throughout the Olympic theater. So much that only a Yogi Berra-type quote could communicate the immensity of the task.

"We got 90 percent of the job done on time. The other 90 percent we're still working on," Romney said.

That includes running the last of 32,000 miles of optical cable and distributing 6 million feet of toilet paper to 10,000 portable potties.

Much of what remains, including completion of venue bleachers, trailer installation and tent construction, consists of temporary structures that will be removed after the Olympics. Romney said that work is about 80 percent done.

Decking out the city for SLOC's "look of the Games" is an "elaborate" process, he said. It also hasn't been without hurdles.

The massive banner for the west side of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building can't be drilled into the wall because it would damage the tile facade, he said. Crews have to strap it on.

The illuminated Olympic rings on the east-side foothills still must be installed ? without scarring the environment. The 160-foot-diameter icon below Twin Peaks will contain 1,850 lights. The job requires 12 to 18 people to finish.

And the seemingly endless chain-link fence surrounding Olympic Square and other public areas won't remain bare. Next week, workers will start putting up 26 miles of decorative fence wrap.

Downtown businesses, though, might not look very Olympic on the outside.

Because of trademark and branding restraints, many shop and building owners are confused about what they can and can't do, said Bob Farrington, executive director of the Downtown Alliance. Only Olympic sponsors are allowed to display official Winter Games signs or flags on storefronts and facades.

"There's a lot of conflicting information," he said. "I think people have just kind of thrown their hands up."

Many have chosen to do nothing, though some might opt for generic "Celebrate 2002" banners that have no direct Olympic tie.

Farrington would like to have seen SLOC come up with some type of uniform Winter Games decorations that store and building owners could have used. A draft image was created several years ago but was never approved, he said.

"Every time you turn around there's some branding or trademark issue," he said.

The Downtown Alliance does intend to leave up most of its holiday lights in the public right of way.

Contributing: Sara Giles

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com