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Utahns in Vancouver to tout 2002 Olympic legacy

Published: 02/19/2010
By Mike Gorrell, The Salt Lake Tribune -- The topic of business luncheons Saturday and Sunday in Vancouver will be Olympic legacy -- not British Columbia's, but Utah's.

Officials from the Salt Lake, Park City and Ogden convention and visitors bureaus will deliver slightly differing messages about how their communities benefited from the 2002 Winter Games.

And, eight years later, are continuing to do so.

A reception Friday in Whistler, British Columbia, emphasized the same theme with input from Colin Hilton, of the Utah Athletic Foundation, the nonprofit created to foster winter sports in Utah. Its other task is to manage Utah Olympic Park (ski jumps, bobsled/luge track, freestyle aerials pool) and the speedskating oval.

The audience? The large contingent of news people attracted to the Olympics by the spectacle that surrounds the event rather than the sports.

"There is so much more to the Olympics than who wins what event," said Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau spokesman Shawn Stinson.

"It's naive to think that a city doesn't want to host the Olympics for monetary gains. It's an investment in the future," he added. "It helps put it on the map for a target audience that is worldwide."

Salt Lake CVB President Scott Beck will emphasize how hosting the Games made the capital a more appealing stop on the convention and meeting circuit, Stinson said.

Beck will describe how the Olympics showed Salt Lake City was capable of staging big-time events, that its airport was incredibly close to downtown and the mountains, that its infrastructure was modern, its work force pleasant and accomplished -- and its cost-of-living is cheaper than most places.

As executive director of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, Bill Malone's message is that the Games made Park City a much better destination resort than it was prior to 2002.

"Our hospitality product has grown considerably since hosting the Games," said chamber/bureau spokesman Craig McCarthy.

"Park City got a lot of credibility being part of the Olympics. We've seen a significant increase in our skier days over the last few years," he added.

Statewide, skier numbers are up from 3 million in the winter of 2001-02 to 4 million last winter.

For Sara Toliver, president of the Weber/Ogden Travel Bureau, the meetings afford a chance to recount Snowbasin's role in the Alpine downhill races and Ogden's emergence as a hub for winter-sports businesses, such as Amer and Descente and Goode.

"Those companies didn't move here because of the Olympics, but the Games gave us exposure," she said. "Those companies recognized all of the recreational opportunities and the quality-of-life benefits around here and that impacted their decisions to relocate."

Hilton's mission is twofold.

He will be forging reciprocal training agreements with Vancouver's two legacy foundations -- one in Whistler, home of Nordic jumping, cross country skiing and the bobsled/luge facilities, the other in Richmond, site of the speedskating oval.

He also will work with the Whistler group to coordinate bids for World Cup events. With its facilities, there are now four potential stops on a North American swing for winter sports federations -- Lake Placid, Calgary, Salt Lake City and Whistler.

Hilton also will team with Utah Sports Commission executive Jeff Robbins to expound on what their two groups have done to make Utah a sports capital.

"Since 2002, we have spent more than $100 million to run the legacy facilities and on programs supporting winter sports in general," Hilton said, noting that 100 of the 216 athletes on the 2010 U.S. team trained on Utah facilities, and that nearly 60 call the state home, full or part time.

"That is coming from the earnings of our [$76 million] endowment" from Salt Lake's Olympic organizers, Hilton said, "not from state tax dollars. We call it Utah's living Olympic legacy."

Utah's Olympic legacy

* Estimated economic impact of sports events held in Utah, 2000-2014: $1.8 billion

* Since 2002, the Utah Athletic Foundation has invested more than $100 million in facility and sport programs

* U.S. Speedskating moved its headquarters -- and long- and short-track teams -- to Kearns oval

* U.S. Ski Team built a $22 million "Center of Excellence" training facility in Park City

* More than 300 major sports events (30-35 annually) have been held in Utah since 2002

* Skier days in Utah increased from 3 million to 4 million since 2001-2002

Source: Utah Athletic Foundation

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