|by Howard Stephenson|
What a ride!
In many ways, I suppose we all feel a little like we’ve personally done the giant slalom. But wasn’t it worth it?
From multiple foreign and local sources we’re hearing that these were, without a doubt, the best-hosted Winter Olympic Games ever. We can be justifiably proud of this great state and all those who made this world-healing event such a huge success.
The most significant message sent throughout the world during these events is this: Utah Works. Whether you’re looking for a place to do business or a place to take a vacation, This is the Place.
There are two groups of people I believe deserve special praise.
The public safety team did an incredible job in maintaining the security of the games and all of the numerous ancillary activities. The FBI, Secret Service, military, and state and local police, fire, and emergency response agencies were effective in preventing and responding to incidents. I was surprised to learn they were assisted by over 1,700 police officers donated by various local law enforcement agencies. Their service was a unique opportunity, not only to assist, but to participate in training that will benefit police agencies across the state for years. Some observers have stated that there has never been a better, more perfectly coordinated public safety operation.
Volunteers made an enormous contribution to the success of the games. In fact, the games could not have occurred without them. The Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) deployed approximately 27,000 volunteers. This number is significant, but there were originally over 67,000 persons who applied to become volunteers. What a compliment to this is to the generosity of the Utah people. About 40,000 volunteer applicants had to be turned away. After extensive training, the volunteers were put to work. Visitors at any venue were never far from a smiling volunteer eager to assist with their needs.
Additional volunteers were recruited to assist at the Devereaux House where the State of Utah hosted foreign dignitaries; the Utah Business Center, sponsored by the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce; the Downtown Alliance; Visitor Information Services, which coordinated 110 non-profit organizations and agencies of local, county, state and federal government. There were also many volunteers at the State Capitol where an original of the Declaration of Independence was on display with the original Arnold Freiberg “Prayer at Valley Forge” painting of George Washington plus an historic “Old Glory” American flag. On one Saturday it was estimated that volunteers helped 15,000 visitors to experience the capitol displays.
Volunteers were also essential to the success of various community programs such as Salt Lake’s numerous downtown activities, Park City’s Downtown Celebration, Wasatch County’s train, sled, barbeque and wild west show extravaganza, Ogden’s Downtown festivities, Brigham City’s and many others. And then there were the events sponsored by the LDS Church which required thousands of volunteers.
State Olympic Coordinator Lane Beattie estimates that all told, there may have been as many as 100,000 volunteers engaged in hosting the world during these Winter Olympic games.
It is altogether fitting that Mitt Romney would head an organization that relied so heavily on volunteers, since his father, the late George W. Romney, three-term governor of Michigan, dedicated the last twenty years of his life to promoting volunteerism through the National Volunteer Center which later merged with President Bush’s Points of Light Foundation.
And now the really good news: It appears that the games will end in the black after refunding the $59 million sales tax diversion to state and local governments. This was not a sales tax increase, but a diversion of 1/32 of one cent of both local and state existing sales tax rates. It looks like there will also be enough left over to establish the promised $40 million legacy fund to ensure taxpayers won’t be saddled with the operation of the impressive Summit County Winter Olympic Sports Park. This park includes the training center for ski jumping and inverted aerialist events, and the luge-bobsled-skeleton run. There may also be enough money left over to enhance this perpetual trust fund to include ongoing operations of the Soldier Hollow nordic track and the Kearns ice oval.
SLOC will be leaving behind nearly $1/4 billion in infrastructure enhancements to the various venues. The combination of winter sports facilities which Utah will be left with after the Olympics will be a tremendous addition to our quality of life; unmatched anywhere in the world.
Way to go, Utah!