The Olympics are like motherhood and apple pie. Well, it used to be that way before Salt Lake City’s bid-buying scandal and all the hoopla about performance-enhancing substances taken by many Olympic athletes.
But that’s all right, according to polls by NBC Sports that show the average citizen still thinks the Olympics are wonderful and pure. NBC is counting on the 2002 Winter Games having the viewing and advertising impact of something like 14 Super Bowls, back to back. How do you spell M-O-N-E-Y?
For those of us here on the ground, of course, there’s more than money involved, although our Olympic boosters did all right for themselves—until the FBI showed up, that is. This is about showcasing our state and everything we think is great about it, including our mountains, our way of life and our capital city.
But what to do with all those boarded up buildings along Main Street? Salt Lake City, with a little help from taxpayers, has hired a real estate agent to find shopkeepers to replace all that plywood with bright storefronts. That way, Salt Lake City won’t look like a miniature Bronx when the world’s elite arrive for the Games.
If we weren’t hosting the Winter Games, would we leave Main Street looking like a partial ghost town? It does seem odd that we would go to great lengths to fix it up for visitors but haven’t been willing to take the same steps for the sake of the town and its residents.
We could ask the same question about the I-15 rebuild and light rail. Suddenly they needed to be built because the Olympics are coming. Seems strange, doesn’t it, allowing the transportation system to fall into ruin for 30 years and then suddenly upgrade because there’s a party coming.
Stranger yet, is that the Salt Lake [Olympic] Organizing Committee is paying Earl Holding millions to leave 10 acres in blight between 500 and 600 South on Main Street. Maybe they plan to put up some colorful tents there while Olympic visitors are in town. But then what?
The legacy of Atlanta’s Olympics, on the other hand, is a 20-acre, $78 million park downtown that has become the center of the city and its revitalization. It’s hard to say at this point what the legacy of Salt Lake City’s Olympics will be, but the contrast between Holding’s parking lot and Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park couldn’t be more stark.
Apparently, it’s asking too much that city, state and Olympic officials begin planning something for Utahns to keep, rather than simply putting on a show for jet-setting visitors and TV cameras from NBC. —CKS