The Olympics Effect
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Salt Lake City, Utah, Winter 2002:
The Amoral Olympics
Going for gold: Salt Lake City was certainly a host that believed, desperately, in the economic benefit of the Olympics Effect. It demonstrated this, after several failed bid attempts dating back to 1972, when local organizers were found to have bribed International Olympic Committee members (six of whom were later ousted) in order to secure the bid for 2002. Some $310 million of the nearly $1.9 billion in total costs was spent on security, as it was, after all, just five months beyond 9/11. No amount of money, however, could suppress such apocryphal and humorously intended stories as the one about the results of one of the events being found, ahead of time, in an Al Qaeda cave in Afghanistan.
Tourism legacy: In addition to a number of excellent snow-sports venues, there's the Olympic Oval, where even novices can learn to speed-skate on what is said to be the fastest ice in the world. Salt Lake City also came away with the Grand America Hotel, considered one of the finest accommodations in town, plus a mall/cultural center known as The Gateway. Some view the slight liberalizing of Utah's liquor lawswhich locals are quick to point out are less strict than, say, Iran'sto be another legacy of the Games. Others, however, argue that with the lowest drunk-driving accident rate in the nation, it was a change they were happy to do without.
Results: Bronze. The games made $56 million in profit, but at the cost of leaving the citizens of the six countries whose members were expelled from the International Olympic Committee (Ecuador, Sudan, Congo, Mali, Chile, and Samoa) aghast at the knowledge that their representatives could have been corrupted.