Utahns continue to bask in the afterglow of the 2002 Winter Games at the one-year anniversary of the state's Olympic success story, a new poll shows.

Eighty percent of the state's residents favor Salt Lake City hosting a future Olympic Winter Games if given the chance, according to a Deseret News/KSL-TV poll taken by Dan Jones & Associates.

"It's not going to get any higher than that. I'm surprised it's that high," Jones said, especially a year after the Feb. 8, 2002, opening ceremonies of the Games. "Utah is still reveling in the success of the Olympics."

Salt Lake's Olympics have been widely hailed as the best-ever Winter Games, a title that had been bestowed upon Lillehammer, Norway, host of the 1994 Winter Games. Longtime Olympic filmmaker Bud Greenspan is one of the converts.

Greenspan credits the city's ambience and especially its people for changing his mind.

"It's one of those things that's tough to describe," he said. "It's a feeling. And the feeling we all had being in Salt Lake was that they wanted us to be there. They wanted this to be the best Winter Olympics."

American bobsledder Brian Shimer, one of the athletes profiled in Greenspan's film about the 2002 Games, agreed. "I know leading into the Games, there was quite a bit of controversy, but Utahns came through with flying colors," Shimer said. "Utahns should hold their heads up and be proud."

Besides wanting to give the Games another whirl, the poll found 83 percent of Utahns believe the world has a new image of the state. An overwhelming 97 percent polled said the change in Utah's image as a result of the Games was favorable.

And Utahns also think the Olympics boosted the state's economy. Sixty-seven percent said the impact was definitely or probably positive, while 8 percent saw it as negative. Twenty percent said the Olympics had no real impact on Utah's economic development.

The statewide poll of 413 people was conducted Jan. 6-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

SLOC President Fraser Bullock said the 20 percent of Utahns who said they aren't ready to welcome the world again "might be saying leave well enough alone. We did a fabulous job."

Bullock said he's not sure how he would answer the same question. "I have mixed reactions. I would love to have the experience again, but there's also some risk associated with it. Could we do as fabulous a job again?"

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There's little possibility Salt Lake would host a Games again anytime soon, of course. The International Olympic Committee is already about to choose the site of the 2010 Winter Games from among cities in Canada, South Korea and Austria.

Gov. Mike Leavitt said he wasn't surprised by the poll results. The governor recalled watching the spectacular fireworks display at the end of the closing ceremonies of the Games at the University of Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium.

"Behind me, a person was standing with tears running down her cheeks, and in the glare of all the bangs and all the smoke, she said, 'I want you to know I was against this. And I was wrong,' " Leavitt said. "It was a profound moment of satisfaction."

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com

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