Gov. Gary Herbert announced Wednesday he is forming an exploratory committee to look into bidding for the 2022 or 2026 Olympic Winter Games because, really, weren't the 2002 Games grand?
My grandest memory from the opening ceremonies is a prediction by a Times of London reporter that one of the athletes was using performance-enhancing drugs. I didn't write down his words, but he said essentially this:
"Johann Muhlegg on the Spanish cross country ski team will win the gold because he's doping. He's a German, but he's on the Spanish team because the Spanish let him dope."
Sure enough, Muhlegg, who wangled Spanish citizenship after the German team booted him, got three cross country gold medals for Spain. All three were taken away for doping.
The games had many fun features: Desperate Utahns bribing the International Olympic Committee with everything from school tuition to $700 in door knobs; the several doping scandals; judges throwing the gold to the Russians in pairs figure skating; and Mitt Romney swearing at a hapless volunteer.
With the Games' 10th anniversary officially upon us, we will hear how the volunteer effort morphed into a terrific community organization, how the Games sparked Utah's outdoor recreation industry, how we showed the world Utah is world class and how we leveraged the Games for billions in deficit-exploding federal highway money.
All true, but I still don't want the Games here again.
The Olympics lost their luster when they let professional athletes compete. Yes, pros are our best athletes, but the Games were supposed to be amateur. The 1980 Lake Placid Miracle on Ice was a miracle because our guys, a scratch college all-star team, beat the pro-level national Russian team.
It would not have been a miracle if the Boston Bruins played for the U.S.
The games now are just another stop on the big money circuit for professional athletes, and darned expensive for whatever city the IOC showers with its benevolence. The Salt Lake City games finished $40 million in the black, but that doesn't count the billions that Utah, the federal government and many municipalities and private businesses spent on security, highways and stuff.
Maybe I'm bitter because Weber County got bypassed.
Major downhill events were at Snowbasin and the Ice Sheet had curling, but the Snowbasin parking lots were at the mouth of Weber Canyon. From there, people were bused through Morgan to Snowbasin, let out to watch the events, then bused back. Earl Holding's brand new lodges were even fenced off.
I was driving through South Weber to Ogden on U.S. 89 just as curling at the Ice Sheet was getting out. A radio announcer in Salt Lake City told people to avoid Ogden because of the traffic jam.
Huh? The Ice Sheet holds 2,000 people. Traffic is worse when WSU breaks for lunch. We drove past the Ice Sheet on Harrison Boulevard a few minutes later and barely noticed the added traffic.
Olympic fans rarely got close to Ogden, where restaurants and bars lost business. Cindy Simone, who owns the KoKoMo Lounge, remembers sitting night after night, waiting for the party to start. "We bombed on that. We just bombed on that," she told me.
The Games did boost Utah internationally, but we'll never know if we could have achieved the same thing with a well-funded, but vastly cheaper, publicity campaign.
Even so, my most grand night was when I wangled a press seat to "cover" the women's figure skating final. Michelle Kwan stumbled but Sarah Hughes was an angel.
The evening was magic, but Olympic magic isn't cheap.