Sweet Times for Salt Lake
SI special contributor Anita Verschoth filed this report from Budapest, where, on Friday, the International Olympic Committee picked Salt Lake City to host the Winter Olympic Games in 2002.
Despite Salt Lake's status as the favorite to secure the 2002 Games, Tom Welch was understandably worried in the days leading up to the vote. Four years ago Welch, the longtime president of the Salt Lake Olympic Bid Committee, had watched his city, then the front-runner for the 1998 Winter Games, be edged out by Nagano, Japan. Last week, before the decision was announced, a member of the delegation boosting the candidacy of �stersund, Sweden, quipped, "Being a front-runner is like chewing a wad of gum. After a while you want a new one."
But, no, on the very first ballot, the IOC cast 54 of its 89 votes for Salt Lake City. Poor, plucky �stersund, which was making its third straight attempt to win a Winter Games, received 14. Never had there been such a landslide in Winter Olympic bidding. Then again, never had there been a better-prepared bid than the one submitted by Salt Lake City. Karl-Heinz Huba, publisher of a Munich-based Olympic newsletter, said, " Salt Lake has everything in place, the competition sites, the infrastructure, the logistics, the hotels." Even without a guarantee that it would get the Games, Utah had committed $59 million in state funds in 1989 to winter sports facilities. Even European journalists, usually the nastiest nitpickers when it comes to things American, couldn't argue the choice.
Salt Lake City's two bids cost about $7 million each, but that seems a pittance considering the big bucks to come. Welch estimates that Olympic visitors will spend $173 million and that Games-related jobs should generate up to half a billion dollars over the next seven years.
Perhaps now is as good a time as any to remind ourselves that the last two U.S. cities to win Winter Games bids faced problems of Olympian proportions. The 1980 Games in Lake Placid turned into an ugly logistical snarl. And the '76 edition in Denver was canceled and moved to Innsbruck, Austria, because a statewide referendum denied the city the use of public money for the Games. Could the Salt Lake Games get all gummed up in similar ways? Probably not, but 1995 to 2002 is a long time to chew the same wad, no matter how sweet it tastes at first.
In an unexpected and strong challenge to its president, Juan Antonio Samaranch the IOC last Thursday rejected an age limit proposal that would have allowed him to seek a fourth term in 1997. Bui three days later the 74-year-old Samaranch, whose 15-year reign has beer marked by hugely successful Games and controversy over his political past and his autocratic rule, engineered another vote that raised the retirement age from 75 to 80, virtually ensuring he will remain Lore of the Rings into the next millennium. While there are still limits to his tenure as IOC chief, there are none to his chutzpah.
Another Dark Knight
Even more alarming—though no less surprising—than the sanctimonious defense of his March tirade against an NCAA tournament official that Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight offered last week was the one put forth by his university. Slapped by the tournament committee with a $30,000 fine for Knight's tantrum at the West Regional, the school joined Knight in passing the blame. "He didn't kill anybody, he didn't rape anybody," Indiana athletic director Clarence Doninger told SI. "If this were any other coach.... They've replayed this thing on TV over and over. I've seen it 500 times myself."
Hoosier brass has always let Knight's mouth run unbridled. Even when verbal abuse has escalated into something more egregious—the 1985 chair-throwing incident and the kick he directed at his son Pat in '93—the school has been unfailingly lenient. As for the fine's impact on nonrevenue sports, Doninger said, "I don't mean to belittle $30,000, but we're in the $20 million range. In terms of total budget, it's a small amount."