The early seeds for the “superb” Salt Lake Winter Games in 2002 were planted, in part, by a Chamber of Commerce effort in the 1960s.
Calvin Rampton was governor when Utah first tossed its hat into the Olympic ring. He was barely into the first year of his first term when he got together with Max Rich of the Chamber of Commerce and Bud Jack, a Utahn on the United States Olympic Committee, and formed a game plan to bid for the 1972 Olympic Winter Games.
While the assertion is unprovable, many of the early bid leaders believe without the effort, Utah wouldn’t have eventually won the 2002 Games.
Rampton appointed seven men to the bid committee in April 1965: Rich, Jack Galliv
an, Walker Wallace, F.C. Koziol, Glen Adams, Gene Donovan, and one-time Olympic skier Dev Jennings. Earlier that year, Rich had even floated the idea of hosting the 1968 Winter Games, set for Grenoble, France. Salt Lake had offered to take over the Games because of some doubt about whether France would accept visas for members of the East German team. The International Olympic Committee went ahead with Grenoble and Salt Lake focused its efforts on in the 1972 Games.
The group incorporated as Olympics for Utah, Inc. or OUI (playing on the French word “yes”). The entire bid budget was $35,000 ($200,000 in 2002 dollars), which was raised by selling 35,000 “OUI” pins at a dollar apiece. Salt Lake City beat out, among others, Lake Placid, New York, for USOC approval.
Rich, Gallivan, Donovan, Wallace, and Jennings went to Rome in 1969 to bid on the 1972 Winter Olympics. Unlike later bids, not a single IOC member visited Salt Lake City in 1965. The Utahnsdidn’t meet their first IOC delegates until they got to Rome, where they got to throw one party. They hired a piano player off the street.
Rampton remembers the IOC, led at the time by the autocratic Avery Brundage, as “an austere bunch.” Wallace described them as “pretty aloof” group populated by members of nobility. The IOC upper crust and the band from an obscure western state proved to be an interesting mix. During the party, Donovan put his arm around one of the IOC members in typical Rotary-Club style and was told, “Do no touch my person.”
The $35,000 budget went fast. For example, Rampton remembers the Salt Lake delegation needed a large display shipped to Rome, but getting it there would take a huge chunk of the budget.
Someone suggested that the Utah Air National Guard was about to send a training flight to Frankfurt, Germany. Rampton called a friend at National Guard headquarters in Washington, and asked if he could put some cargo on that plane.
“You can,” said the officer, “if I don’t know about it.”
Then the governor said, “but we need it delivered to Rome.”
The guardsman didn’t miss a beat. “We’ve got to refuel in Rome,” he said.
In the end, Salt Lake City lost to Sapporo, Japan. However, boosters said they got what they were looking for–more publicity for Utah’s ski industry. Rampton was actually relieved the state didn’t have to follow through on building all of planned venues.
The 1965 loss set the stage for Rich’s successor, Fred Ball, to help the city embark on Olympic campaigns in the 1970s and the final decade push between 1985 and 1995 that brought the Winter Games to Utah.
Sources: Lex Hemphill, “Olympic Visionaries,” The Salt Lake Tribune, 2 February 2002. Lee Benson, “A player perfect for the Games,” Deseret News, 17 February 1999. Fred Ball typescript at Chamber offices.