For the week of January 6, 1999   thru January 12, 1999  

Intermountain Region, Wood River Valley stand to gain from 2002 Olympics


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

The Olympics are coming! The Olympics are coming!

Chip Fisher, a Ketchum resident and chairman of the Idaho Olympic Committee, said he sometimes feels like Paul Revere.

"There is a call-to-arms portion of this thing," he said. "The community has to get involved."

Fisher and other local business people believe the proximity of the Wood River Valley to the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City will provide a plethora of economic opportunities.

Members of the Idaho Olympic Committee also include Carl Wilgus, director of tourism for the Idaho Department of Commerce, Sun Valley Company general manager Wally Huffman and Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum.

Fisher said Salt Lake will play host to 2,100 athletes and 10,000 reporters. He said the events will be viewed on 3.7 billion television sets, and 1.5 billion people will look for Olympics-related postings on the Internet each day.

The 2002 Paralympic Games—events for those with disabilities—will have more athletes than the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games, he said.

"Suffice it to say the world will be watching the Intermountain Region in 2002," he said.

Fisher said that past Olympics have had regional effects.

"It is larger than what anyone has a grip on," he said.

Fisher said that about 15 years ago, a study was conducted that polled a large cross-section of the world and asked what people’s impressions of America’s West were.

"Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Yellowstone National Park are what the world perceives the West to be," Fisher said. "This will be the only opportunity Idaho has to introduce itself to the world efficiently and effectively for generations to come."

At no other time for several generations will there be an event like the Olympics at the Intermountain Region’s back door, Fisher said.

"This is the Intermountain Region’s coming-out party," Fisher said. "We can get dressed up for the dance or not."

There are a number of things the Intermountain Region and the Wood River Valley can do to prepare for the Olympics, he contended.

First, he said, Idaho will want to introduce itself through the press. He said the Idaho Olympic Committee is starting initiatives to produce positive press relations.

"We want to be part of the Internet fabric as well," he added.

With 1.5 billion daily viewers, Fisher said, the medium can have a great effect on people’s perceptions of Idaho and the Intermountain Region.

Fisher said the committee is also working on having tourism attractions before and after the games, commercial and tourist opportunities and cultural events.

There will be more cultural affairs during the games than sporting events, Fisher said.

"We’re working on how to ensure that the cultural aspect of the games does not get lost in Idaho," he said.

In addition, Fisher said, 77 nations, each with 16 sporting disciplines, are looking for places to train, and he believes that the Intermountain Region can capitalize on that, too.

"Numerous countries have been asking about places to train," he said. "They’re looking for something as early as, say, next month."

"We’ve sent letters all over the world, and we’re getting letters back," he said.

Training facilities and family hosts for athletes are two of the possibilities the committee is pushing.

"The community has a huge opportunity and it can’t wait until the last minute because then it’s too late," Fisher said.

Then, reflecting on his confidence in the Wood River Valley, he added, "Once this community decides it wants something done, you better get out of its way."

 

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