Olympics Motivated by Economic Need

Kenneth Bullock considers his father-in-law, a former heavy- weight boxer, the epitome of an Olympic athlete.

Motivated to compete by pride in his country and personal performance, this man embodied ideals that comprise only part of the story. A Deseret News headline proclaiming “Tax Tips For Games Can Boost Profits” tells a little more, according to Bullock.

He represented the Utah League of Cities and Towns at a forum held Friday evening in the Marriott Library’s Gould Auditorium.

“It is a business. You cannot?by any stretch of the imagination?convince me it is not a business,” Bullock said.

The Olympics are also a chameleon, he said. For sponsors, they are a world stage to promote their products; for local businesses, they can catalyze development.

Economic development is the key reason why cities want the Games in the first place, according to Matthew Burbank, a University of Utah political science professor who wrote a book on the subject.

“There’s no real reason to host the Olympics, it’s not a money-making proposition,” Burbank said.

But cities do so for two reasons?economic development and image. By hosting the Summer Olympics, Atlanta hoped to establish a reputation as a world-class city. But letting the world in your door can be a double edged sword, Burbank said.

Salt Lake City’s image stood to benefit nicely from the Games. Most people outside of the state had little, if any, preconceptions about Utah?until news of scandal crept out, he said.

But even after Salt Lake City’s bribery scandal, multiple cities in the United States have expressed interest in hosting the Games in 2012, he said.

“The Olympics are really about economic development,” Burbank said. Salt Lake City’s bid committee began with a diverse assortment of faces, then distilled down to a few key committees dominated by business people.

The Games economic lure appeals not only to in-state business, but also to the out of-state unemployed, according to Linda Hilton, chairwoman of Salt Lake Organizing Committee’s Humanitarian Services Committee. SLOC’s campaign to fill thousands of Olympics related jobs has drawn those looking for work in a slowing economy to Utah.

Unfortunately, these people are often under-qualified for the positions available. Unskilled jobs are available only for shorter periods offering low wages, she said.

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