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Tickets are found for SLOC volunteers

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After a handful of Olympic volunteers complained about not receiving tickets to a Feb. 6 dress rehearsal for the 2002 Winter Games opening ceremonies, the Salt Organizing Committee has ponied up.

Friday SLOC spokeswoman Caroline Shaw said that organizers would give to volunteers who haven't received dress rehearsal tickets a free pass to the Feb. 4 pre-dress rehearsal.

Before Friday a handful of volunteers had been knocking Olympic planners for dolling out perks to politicians and current and former SLOC officials instead of giving the extras to Olympic volunteers.

At issue was SLOC President Mitt Romney's decision to distribute 1,200 opening ceremonies dress rehearsal tickets to political leaders and others with close SLOC ties.

"There's quite a few people that are really hurt that they are not inviting us to the (dress rehearsal) ceremonies on the (Feb.) 6th, but yet they are inviting a lot of political people," said an Olympic volunteer named Lauren, who declined to give her last name.

Even embattled former bid leaders Tom Welch and Dave Johnson were extended invitations under the ticket giveaway plan Romney announced last week. Along with the pair of former bid leaders, state legislators, mayors of all Utah cities and towns, county commission chairs and venue city and county commissioners and council members will have free tickets.

But several hundred SLOC volunteers were set to go without.

"I don't think they gave the seats to them instead of us, I just think they didn't consider us," said Melissa Layton, a volunteer who won't be attending the ceremonies.

The politicians were chosen to represent outlying areas of the state, which contributed tax money to the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games but will likely reap little benefit, Romney said.

The invitations, according to Romney, were extended to politicians because SLOC had extra seats and wanted the stadium to be full for the dress rehearsal.

Volunteers such as Layton, who are part of the venue prep team, thought they should be filling those empty seats instead of politicians who have little time committed to the Games. As prep team members, Layton and hundreds others don't have the same status as SLOC's Team 2002 volunteers, who make up most of SLOC's volunteer workforce. Prep team volunteers only work about 40 hours before and during the Games as opposed to Team 2002 volunteers, who will work upward of 100 hours and will receive dress rehearsal tickets.

Because the time commitment is significantly less, the benefits are different.

When told she would be receiving a ticket to the pre-dress rehearsal Layton replied, "Well I guess that's better than nothing."

E-mail: bsnyder@desnews.com