Don’t Scar Utah’s Scenery With IOC Advertisments

Imagine a cool October morning. Looking up at the foothills, you see several individuals with giant metal rods traversing the Twin Peaks area above Salt Lake City. As the sun rises and illuminates the picturesque landscape, the group begins to pound the rigid poles into the fragile soil. For the next several days, the group repeats the process?1,800 times.

For Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and Salt Lake Organizing Committee President and CEO Mitt Romney, this story is a dream come true.

But it hasn?t happened?yet.

Anticipating an easy in, SLOC must jump the last hurdle?the city of Salt Lake, which owns 4/30 of the Twin Peaks property. SLOC has been eyeing this property, because its ownership is the last step in consummating their Olympic ring vision.

SLOC?s anticipated foothill rings each have a diameter of 160 feet, and the Olympic planners expect to use a 100 kilowatt generator to power the 370,000 watts of lighting. For a mayor who encouraged us to conserve energy, Anderson?s unwavering support is an administrative anomaly.

As soon as Olympic officials revealed their prized Olympic rings, glowing from the Harbor Bridge in Sydney during the 2000 Games, SLOC began formulating its ring placement for 2002.

It considered many locations, and then someone looked up at the foothills and inquired, ‘Why don?t we scar and obscure the natural beauty of our foothills and pound 1,800 fluorescent light bulbs attached to rods into the ground?’

OK, so perhaps SLOC didn?t use language that strong. But it is evident that SLOC didn?t fully consider the impact of its actions when formulating its proposal.

On the most fundamental level, there are far better uses for money, energy and manpower than stabbing and sustaining a glowing advertisement in the side of a mountain. Though I myself have very poor navigational skills, it?s not hard estimate that SLOC missed its intended target by an entire state. Such a flashy marquee belongs in Las Vegas.

In an Oct. 2 proposal letter to Anderson, Roger Black, SLOC?s director of Venue Community Services, wrote that, if approved, the Olympic rings “would create a signature image of the 2002 Winter Olympics, similar in impact on viewers to the image of the Harbor Bridge in Sydney.”

However, Black and his comrades failed to realize a fundamental difference. The Harbor Bridge is a man-made structure. The Rocky Mountains are not.

SLOC?s Olympic aspirations are not to attach the rings to an inanimate object, but to agitate an ecosystem and uproot a natural legacy. The only way that an equivalent comparison could be made between the two ring placements is if officials at the Sydney Games decided to drive glowing, waterproof rods in an Olympic ring formation into the Great Barrier Reef.

The citizens of Australia would not allow the Olympic officials to vandalize one of their last remaining natural treasures. And neither should we.

The Rocky Mountains symbolize the natural West. To give in now?to succumb to commercial pressures?is betraying ourselves as Utahns and misleading the world community as a whole.

Do we really want to represent ourselves to the world as a people that values a pretty picture on television? (SLOC coordinated the proposed ring placement perfectly?so in NBC?s token Salt Lake City shot, the rings shine through perfectly, unblocked by downtown buildings or the Capitol.)

If we do value a pretty picture on television?two can play in this image game.

The snow-covered peaks of Utah?s mountains in February are true visual wonders and should speak for themselves. The image that we, in Utah, should project is one of natural magnificence, untainted by the modern world?s obsession with the brightest, most flashy show of technological advancement.

So far, community members have not been silent on the issue. At an Oct. 3 Greater Avenues Community Council meeting, John Sittner, director of SLC Olympic Planning Office presented the Olympic ring proposal to a packed hall. Out of approximately 70 people in attendance, only one person liked SLOC?s ring proposal.

Sittner gave vague answers to citizens? questions, throwing out token phrases like, “it?s an image for the world” and “there is a significant educational proponent.” When one women asked what that component entailed, Sittner could not provide an answer. Whoops.

Proponents of the ring proposal argue that the citizens won?t have to pay for the project. SLOC, quite likely, was acutely aware that many members of the Salt Lake community would resist its Olympic ring proposal. It was wise of SLOC to take a circuitous route around the public. But it couldn?t avoid us for long.

The City Council, with a vote of 4-3, decided at its last meeting to hold a public hearing and public comment session on the matter. That meeting is tonight at 6 p.m. on the third floor in the council chambers of the City and County Building (451 S. State St.).

When so many Olympic decisions are made without any acknowledgement of public opinion, opportunities such as this?where the community?s vocal opposition will make or break a proposal?are rare.

This is the chance for students and community members to become involved in shaping the way that Utah presents itself to the world. Take the initiative tonight. Attend the City Council meeting and express your disgust for drilling an unnecessary and entirely meaningless advertisement into our mountainside.

And, on your way out, don?t forget to condemn SLOC for assuming it can bypass those who truly care about Salt Lake after the Games?the city?s people.

Laura welcomes feedback at: [email protected] or send letters to the editor to: [email protected].