Sponsors Sought for 2002 Olympics

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Salt Lake City, UT August 31 (AP by Amy Steinberg)--Olympic officials have recruited a group of local business and community leaders to urge others to sponsor the scandal-plagued 2002 Winter Games.

Members of the Utah Ambassadors have not necessarily donated money themselves, but have agreed to ``give support and help open doors,'' said Kem Gardner, the marketing advisory committee's chairman.

Salt Lake Organizing Committee president Mitt Romney said the group should help raise the $179 million needed from corporate sponsors to meet the $1.34 billion budget for the games.

``We anticipate we will add one to two sponsors a month'' over the next two years, he said Monday.

Since January, sales have been stymied by reports of corruption in the host-city selection process. Only one new sponsor and four suppliers have signed on to the Salt Lake City Games since the scandal broke last December.

``I don't know that people ever flock to give money,'' Romney said.

``We have had some problems,'' admitted former French ski champion Jean-Claude Killy, deputy chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for the 2002 Games. ``Everything has changed since Mitt's arrival. ... Everyone is positive again. Everyone is confident.''

Salt Lake's bid team provided more than $1 million in perks and payments to IOC members, prompting a Justice Department probe into possible bribery, fraud and money-laundering.

Gov. Mike Leavitt, who will serve as the group's honorary chairman, said he too has ``growing confidence and growing optimism'' in the SLOC's efforts.

Romney also reiterated that the SLOC intends to only spend money it can raise and will cut the budget if necessary.

``We have the ability to accordion our operation somewhat,'' he said.

Ambassadors were chosen from a list of business leaders who had already demonstrated they are willing to support the games. The 20-person committee includes the president of Intermountain Health Care, which provided free medical services to three Africans connected to the IOC. The nearly $28,000 in health care included hepatitis treatment, plastic surgery, and knee joint replacement surgery.

Gardner, who is president of the Boyer Company, said one of the main reasons he joined the committee was ``in gratitude to Mitt for coming out and helping us run these games'' after former SLOC head Frank Joklik resigned in January.

However, Utah's richest industrialist, Jon M. Huntsman, is not a member of the group. Huntsman, owner of one of the world's largest chemical manufacturers, Huntsman Corp., had been an unyielding critic of the 2002 Games until July, when he offered his support, but not money.

Romney said Huntsman is helping raise money outside the state, while the Utah Ambassadors will focus on Utah companies and those with ties to the state.

Huntsman has said he believes Utah has already paid enough in dollars and a damaged reputation.

Copyright © 1999 The Associated Press