Drum roll, please. With the 2002 Winter Games just weeks away, the most influential person in the Olympic world this year is . . . still not Mitt Romney, although the Salt Lake Organizing Committee president did earn the No. 2 spot.
First place on the "Golden 25" list compiled annually by "Around the Rings," an electronic newsletter about the Olympics published from Atlanta, went to Jacques Rogge, the recently elected president of the International Olympic Committee.
Romney, lauded in a special edition of the newsletter Wednesday as having become "a consummate expert on how to run a Winter Olympics in the 21st Century" in the three years since he took over SLOC, is followed on the list by the Games' security forces.
"One of Mitt Romney's toughest tasks post-Sept. 11 has been convincing the world that the Olympics in February will not be disrupted by terrorism and violence," according to Around the Rings editor Ed Hula.
"Soon it will be up to the thousands of security force members spread across Utah to deliver on Romney's pledge," Hula said, calling the security plans for the first Olympics since the terrorist attacks "a test to see what works ? and at what cost for future Games."
Romney was praised in the newsletter for knowing "how to cut budgets, raise money from public and private sources against daunting odds and, in the end, stage enviable Games." Hula predicted Romney's expertise will be sought after by future Olympic organizers.
For his part, Romney was quick to say that the recognition belonged to the entire organizing committee, not just him. "We have an enormous impact on the Olympic movement then we fade into the sunset. That's how it should be," he said.
No other Utahns made the list. Last year's rankings included Tom Welch and Dave Johnson, who faced federal felony charges in the bribery scandal surrounding Salt Lake City's Olympic bid, and Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson. Romney ranked 7th in 2001.
Anderson, who ranked 10th on the 2001 list, was described by Hula this year as having been "a moderating influence in the preparation of his city for the Games during the past two years, working to ensure his city is remembered for more than the Mormon church."
Hula said in an interview that Anderson didn't make the 2002 list because "the time for his influence was last year" even though he still has a role to play during the Games. The mayor, Hula said, "seems to have done the city well."
Only three Americans made the current list in addition to Romney and the Games' security forces ? NBC Sports boss Dick Ebersol, whose network will cover the Salt Lake Games, U.S. Olympic Committee President Sandy Baldwin and IOC member Bob Ctvrtlik.
The remaining "Golden 25" are a mix of IOC members and staff, international sports officials organizers of the next Olympics after Salt Lake City, the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece.
Utahns will likely drop off the list next year for good ? maybe.
Welch and Johnson could reappear if the dismissal of the charges against them is successfully challenged by federal prosecutors, Hula said. "The trial is still looming as a possibility next year."