If we bid it, they will come.
Such was the mindset of a select group of prominent Salt Lake business leaders in the early 1960s. At that time, Park City, Utah (or United Park City Mines), was pretty much a ghost town with a new ski industry that was regularly losing money. Even though Utahns knew they had the "greatest snow on earth," the rest of the world was oblivious to this fact. Moreover, there were no funds available to bring it to the world's attention.
To correct this situation, the group searched for a way to make Utah a tourist destinationand so were formed the Downtown Planning Association, Ski Utah, Travel Utah, and Pro Utah, all privately funded. The organizations' missions were clear-build a major convention center in the city, promote winter tourism, and encourage winter and summer visitations to Utah's national and state parks and other natural wonders. But how could this be done when there were no funds?
The late Gen. Maxwell E. Rich ex'35, then president of the Greater Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, approached Gov. Calvin L. Rampton JD'39 and Salt Lake Tribune publisher John W. Gallivan with the suggestion that Salt Lake try for the U.S. nomination for the 1972 Olympic Winter Games. A little apprehensive about the idea, the governor asked, "What do we do if we win?" Rich's answer: "No way we can win. . . But we will win millions of dollars of free publicity worldwide that will establish Utah as an Olympic-class place to ski."
The United States did award the nomination to Salt Lake City, worldwide publicity became a reality, and Utah ski resorts began their prosperous and continuous upward climb. A far cry from the impoverished days of the '60s, Summit County, where Park City is located, now has the highest per capia income in the state.
Rich and Gallivan were joined by five other organizing committee members, H. Devereaux Jennings ex'46, Gene Donovan, Glen Adams, F. C. Koziol, and M. Walker Wallace, in putting a bid proposal together for the selection that was eventually announced in Rome, Italy. Rampton, indeed, did not have to worrySapporo, Japan, was awarded the 1972 Olympic Winter Games.
The 1972 bid was a work of art. The selection of venue sites was especially imaginative. Central to the plan was a $17 million indoor arena that would seat 10,725 spectators and was already under constructionthe building that would come to be known as the original Salt Palace. This facility would house the ice hockey and figure skating events. The F.I.S. (International Ski Federation) had already approved courses for alpine events in Alta-Gad Valley, Snowbasin, and Park City, and the luge and bobsled runs would be built to terminate on the Mountain Dell golf course, where the Nordic Center would be established. The biathlon would take place in the same area, and speed skating events were to be held at the Utah State Fairgrounds on an upgraded grandstand track.
The U was an important part of the 1972 bid: the Olympic Center was to be in the Student Center (then the Olpin Student Union Building), the Olympic Village was proposed for Fort Douglas as it existed then, with some modifications, and the football stadium, or "Sports Bowl," as the committee called it, would accommodate the "pageantry" of the Games. The proximity of Salt Lake to nearby ski areas was touted, and the fact that there were over 15,000 hotel and motel rooms available for visitors was a strong selling point. The Tabernacle on Temple Square was to be the premier concert hall, and the Tower Theatre was available for international films.
The Salt Lake City 1972 Winter Olympic Games bid book that committee member Wallace keeps as a fond reminder of this experience extols the virtues of the city in English and French, accompanied by beautiful pictures of the city and surrounding snow-covered mountains.
Indeed, we did bid itagain and again, and they did comeeventually. And in a few short months, far greater numbers of visitors than the '72 committee could have imagined will witness the "greatest show (and snow) on earth"the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
BA'59 is Continuum editorial assistant.