So Salt Lake City is ready to welcome the world.
On its fifth attempt since 1966, Salt Lake City finally won the right to host the Winter Olympics. In 2002, the world of winter sports will come to the United States again, the first time since 1980 (when the U.S. hockey team's miracle gold made Lake Placid the memorable host).
The announcement came yesterday from Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, in a fancy ballroom in a Budapest hotel.
Salt Lake City won on the first ballot, which nobody could remember ever happening before, and beat out Ostersund, Sweden; Quebec City, Canada; and Sion, Switzerland.
Salt Lake City received 54 of the 89 votes cast and needed only a majority, 45. Ostersund and Sion each received 14 votes; Quebec finished with seven.
The Salt Lake City delegates who had traveled to Budapest formed a waving, cheering line along the Danube River yesterday while the IOC voting delegates traveled to a hall to vote.
Though Salt Lake City had been the favorite, each city made one last presentation before the voting, and the Salt Lake City delegates remembered how Sofia, Bulgaria, had been the favorite to host the 1994 Winter Olympics until the final presentations. Ultimately, Lillehammer, Norway, won out.
And the Utahans knew about their own disappointment. In 1991, the delegation thought it had a strong bid for the 1998 Games and was considered a strong, if not favored, contender. But Nagano, Japan, won by four votes, partly because the United States was already hosting the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Atlanta was the biggest negative against Salt Lake's bid this time, too. Was two Olympics in one country in six years too much?
Poor Ostersund, a quaint, Nordic town on a lovely lake, suffered because it was too Nordic, too much like Lillehammer in next-door Norway. And so Sweden, which has hosted 104 winter sports world championship events, still won't have hosted a Winter Olympics.
The knock against Sion was that the Games would have been too spread out, much like the 1992 Games in Albertville, France. And there just seemed to be too much trouble with Quebec City. Too much trouble with French seperatists, especially. And even concerns about how committed the provincial government was with money when it let its NHL team, the Nordiques, leave for Denver.
Salt Lake City also left little to chance. Seven of eight venues are either already in place or nearly so. Only a bobsled/luge run needs to be constructed.
"No city prepared more completely than Salt Lake City, no bid was more thorough and detailed, and at all times the athletes of the world were the principal focal point of the effort," LeRoy Walker, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said in Budapest.
The announcement, broadcast internationally on television, was watched by more than 50,000 people in Salt Lake City on a large, outdoor television screen. A two-day, all-night party is scheduled to continue through today in
Salt Lake City. A call to the mayor's office yesterday afternoon was answered by a breathless woman who said: "Everybody's gone to the party. And I'm going, too."
The mayor, Deedee Corradini, was in Budapest. She said: "I feel like a climber who has made it to the top of Mount Everest. It's been a long, hard climb, and to reach the peak is one of the most exciting moments of my life."
Salt Lake City's final, 45-minute presentation received loud applause yesterday morning, and voters used only a few minutes of the alloted hour for voting.
The Salt Lake City committee hoped that a small but vocal group back home that was opposed to the Games had not made an impression on the international voters, many of whom visited Salt Lake in the last year.
The opposition feared - still does - that the $798 million budget, which includes promises of no new higher taxes, will end up going higher.
But even the opposition was celebrating cautiously in Salt Lake City yesterday.