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Olympic Trials

Fraser Bullock faces a world-class challenge: turn the scandal-plagued, debt-ridden 2002 Winter Games into a winner.

The public, however, is still the x factor. After a comparative sports-ticket pricing study typical of Bullock’s meticulous approach, he recently installed a price boost into the budget that averages 11 percent. The 730,000 tickets will range from $20 to $425 for events, with opening and closing ceremonies costing as much as $885. “The prices are now much more at market level,” says Bullock. But it’s unclear whether sports enthusiasts will pay more for what’s being billed as a trimmed-down Olympics.

Will they be profitable?

How trimmed down will they really be? Some observers believe the Salt Lake City Games could end up substantially in the black, given SLOC’s success to date at cost cutting and revenue raising. They suggest that the bleak financial picture painted by organizers is as much a part of the Olympic tradition as tears on the gold-medal podium.

“The whole idea of disclosing too much can be detrimental to your objective,” says former Atlanta Olympics CFO Pat Glisson. Now COO of King & Spalding, an Atlanta law firm, Glisson notes that as the search for sponsor support continues, it benefits an Olympic committee to sound poorer than it really is.

Still, Bullock maintains that the goal remains simply to put on the Games. That’s one reason the budget has built up a $139.9 million line for contingencies — a ticket-sales shortfall, for example. And if additional money comes in, he says, it will be used for such things as making the opening ceremonies less Spartan, or for other items in the “nice-to-have” category.

“Our objective,” insists Bullock, “is to break even — not a dollar under, not a dollar over our budget.”

Unceremonious Openings

Salt Lake Organizing Committee CEO Mitt Romney seems almost to welcome the avalanche of controversy facing him as chief organizer for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. “The Games would be tarnished forever if the past were buried,” according to the once and probably future politician. “One of the great characteristics of our country is that we will call for a full accounting of wrongdoing, even if it embarrasses us.”

But even Romney didn’t expect the kind of embarrassment that now seems possible. In one likely scenario, the federal trial of two indicted local businessmen could start just weeks before the Games themselves in February 2002 — describing for a worldwide television audience how more than $1 million in payoffs were allegedly made to help win the Games for the Utah capital in the first place.

The press has reported that there was an intense effort by Olympic officials and Utah politicians to get the parties to settle and avoid the glare of publicity. Instead, the trial will offer sordid details of the alleged corruption, while giving the defendants — the former president of the Salt Lake City Olympic bid committee, Tom Welch, and his onetime chief lieutenant, Dave Johnson — the hearing they seek. In a statement, Welch lamented that “we and our families must go through the agony of a criminal trial on the eve of the Games because we did what we, and many other people, thought was absolutely necessary.”

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