Neener-neener, Fresno, SLC still the winner

Jan 9 2011 - 2:00am

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Sheesh, you buy one little Winter Olympics and you're forever after labeled a cheater-pants.

It was shades of winning the bid to host the 2002 Olympic games all over again, as last week some very bitter people in California's grape-producing San Joaquin Valley (motto: "Napa Valley's got nothing on our whines") accused Salt Lake City of cheating in a "Fighting Hunger Together" contest conducted by Walmart.

It all started when the megacorporation announced that some of the $2 billion it has committed to battling hunger over the next few years would be distributed in a Facebook contest. Walmart promised that whichever city amassed the most "Like" clicks on Facebook would win $1 million for its hunger-fighting charities. And that five runner-up cities in the voting would receive $100,000 each.

Apparently, company officials figured a little friendly competition would be a good thing for a serious issue like hunger. They figured wrong.

On Wednesday, Walmart announced that Salt Lake City had won the $1 million prize. And that's when all heck broke loose.

OK, technically they announced that Memphis, Tenn., had won. But that turned out to be a mistake, and Walmart officials quickly corrected it to reflect the actual winner of the $1 million prize: Salt Lake City.

And THAT'S when all heck broke loose.

Fresno, Calif., finished second in the voting, but some folks there weren't about to go gentle into that good night. So, faster than you could say "Olympic bid scandal," Salt Lake City once again found itself being accused of winning something unfairly and unsquarely.

Wrote Liz Harrison of the Fresno-based television station KFSN Channel 30: "As soon as the numbers were announced our Facebook page here at ABC30 lit up with comments. Most were thankful Fresno would be getting $100 thousand. But some feel Fresno should have won."

Why? Well, they claim the contest was rigged, or that Salt Lake somehow cheated in beating Fresno some 5-million-to-4-million votes. But since it appears that both sides were casting multiple ballots -- and even using computer programs to automatically vote -- it would probably be more accurate to say that Salt Lake simply cheated more effectively than Fresno.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit here that I did vote in the contest. But only once.)

Here's a sampling of reader comments from the Fresno Bee newspaper following the announcement that Salt Lake had won the $1 million:

* "So ... did Walmart 'examine' the votes like they said they would? Did Walmart look into allegations of rule violations, cheating, computerized voting, etc.? Did Walmart exclude any votes?" -- Mollymouser

* "i think SALTLAKE CITY HAD MORE POPULATION AND SPAM = (TOTALY UNFAIR .." -- David Roberts

* "This is crap!!! BOOOOO on Wal-Mart and to Salt Lake City!!!" -- D_Rew

Wow. As you can see, there are a lot of angry people in the Fresno area. And not just because they have to, well, you know, live in the Fresno area, either.

Oh, and I'm sure it's only a matter of time before they try to blame this one on The Church of Jesus Christ of Lat--

Oops. Too late. Continue the Bee posts:

* "I don't recall Salt Lake City being the hub of poverty in this nation, especially since it's a metropolitan city that once hosted the Olympics and is the capital of Utah, home to prospering and wealthy Mormons." -- Francis Fung

* "Exactly, Francis! Why is it that Salt Lake had so much money that they could afford to meddle in the California election in 2008, but they don't have enough money to feed their hungry?" -- Nick_1

* "The San Juaquin Valley has a significantly higher 'food need' than Salt Lake City. And the Morman Church is Mega Rich beyond belief and could give millions on their own." -- sparkyracer100

* "This is something I have been curious about during this process -- why does SLC have such a great need? I find it hard to believe that many of those hungry are Mormon since the LDS has a reputation for taking care of its own" -- common_sense

* "let the mormons help their own. Screw Utah" -- freemerryjane

* "the Mormons cant afford it because they spent all their money trying to get prop 8 to pass! losers" -- Jim Hinson

And on and on ...

It should also be noted that the Ogden-Clearfield area -- like Fresno -- was one of the five runners-up receiving $100,000 for hunger relief.

So, the bottom line is that Utah's hungry are $1.1 million richer this week. And as for Fresno and the rest of California's vineyard-intensive San Joaquin Valley?

Sour grapes.

Contact Mark Saal, winner of the Men's Downhill at the 2002 Winter Olympics, at 801-625-4272 or msaal@standard.net.

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