Originally created 01/09/98

Olympic organizers at critical juncture in pulling off 2002 Winter Games



SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Consultants on Tuesday said organizers of the 2002 Winter Games are at a critical juncture and need to make the shift from thinking to executing plans for pulling off the event.

With four years to go, management must be put in place, assignments defined, contracts finalized and budgets drafted that reflect the real cost of staging the event, they said.

"Salt Lake is where it should be, but it is also at a very critical stage where it needs more structure and controls," said consultant Ed Keen, following a presentation to Salt Lake Organizing Committee trustees who had no comment or questions on the findings.

"They need to define who is doing what, for how much and when it will get done," he said.

Keen is with Bechtel Corp., a giant engineering and consulting firm hired to advise the SLOC in staging the Olympics. The company, which also advised organizers of the Olympics in Los Angeles and Barcelona, Spain, will be paid $750,000 for its ongoing monitoring of the Salt Lake games.

In other action, local and United States Olympic Committee officials announced the sponsorship of NationsBank, which will provide a $170 million line of credit for the 2002 Winter Games.

Trustees also voted to give Frank Joklik, president and chief executive officer of the committee, voting power on the board, while tabling a proposal that would have given trustees more oversight of the SLOC's $1.2 billion budget.

Joklik said he decided to hire Bechtel after getting a "reality check" during a visit with organizers of the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.

"They really have their act together with a tough, seasoned management team and a bottoms-up budget," Joklik said. "I thought of how outsiders would look at our effort."

Top management of the SLOC underwent a major shakeup in August when Tom Welch, who had spearheaded Salt Lake's bid and was named president and CEO, resigned in the wake of a spouse abuse charge. He has been retained by the SLOC as a consultant.

Joklik, a retired mining executive, was quickly promoted from chairman to president and CEO.

The Bechtel team praised the SLOC management that is in place, but suggested now is the time to fill other key positions. SLOC employs about 65 and still lacks a security director, a media operations person and a volunteer director, among other critical jobs yet to be filled.

Organizers should also be more aware of projects, such as Interstate 15 reconstruction and light rail installation, in order to plan for unforeseen problems as the Games approach, said Mike Myatt, program manager for Bechtel.

"Transportation is one of the most difficult areas to deal with," Myatt said.

Keen said employing Bechtel's recommendations can help organizers better manage unexpected problems, but not eliminate them.

"Olympics are the ultimate management challenge because you start with nothing and end with nothing," he said. "There is also a lack of management culture to draw from. You have people hired from all walks of life and when it's over they return to those walks of life."

The line of credit with NationsBank is part of a $300 million deal making it the official bank of the 2002 Winter Games and the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.

Officials declined to disclose terms of the credit arrangement, but local organizers and NationsBank said the agreement was both "favorable and prudent" for both parties. NationsBank will also offer financial services to athletes, media and other officials attending the Olympics.

"A line of credit guarantees funding when we put on the games and bridges the lag time of other revenues" that come in after the Olympics are over, Joklik said.

Following the announcement of NationsBank sponsorship, board members convened and voted 24-1 to change the SLOC's bylaws to make Joklik a voting trustee.

The lone dissenter was trustee Ken Bullock, who has long opposed Joklik's campaign to have a vote as a conflict of interest.

"We changed bylaws based on personality," said Bullock, executive director of the Utah League of Cities and Towns. "We just continue to convolute responsibilities rather than define it."

In an effort to give the board more say in the Olympics' spending, Bullock proposed a policy that would require board approval of any changes that impact a budget item by more than $100,000 or 10 percent of what is originally budgeted.

Bullock's proposal drew a mixed reaction as trustees debated how much free reign management should have in spending and whether the committee should have the stringent oversight of a public body.

The proposal was eventually tabled on a motion by Spencer Eccles, chairman of First Security Corp., who wanted to give management a month to study the issue.

"I was disappointed there wasn't more discussion," Bullock said. "But tabling it for further consideration is progress for this group."