It was June 1995, and the International Olympic Committee members were gathered in Budapest to announce the location they had selected for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. The delegates from Salt Lake City held their breath. Would the honor Utah had been seeking for fully three decades come at last? “Salt Lake City!” The announcement ignited the listeners in Hungary and the even greater crowd that had assembled in downtown Salt Lake to await the news. The long-deferred celebration could finally begin.
Three years later, a city knee-deep in preparations to host the world was rocked by allegations of bribery and misconduct in securing the Games. After the initial shock and disappointment, the community pulled together to rise above the problems and reignite the Olympic spirit. Salt Lake was still the best place for the Games, and its people were determined to prove it.
On February 11, 1999, Mitt Romney was hired as the new president and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.
Before Romney came on, the event was running $379 million short of its revenue benchmarks. Plans were being made to scale back the games to compensate for the fiscal crisis. The Games had also been damaged by allegations of bribery involving top officials, including prior Salt Lake Olympic Committee president and CEO Frank Joklik. Joklik and committee vice president Dave Johnson were forced to resign.
Romney revamped the organization’s leadership and policies, reduced budgets, and boosted fund raising. He soothed worried corporate sponsors and recruited many new ones. He admitted past problems, listened to local critics, and rallied Utah’s citizenry with a sense of optimism. Romney worked to ensure the safety of the Games following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks by ignoring those who suggested the games be called off and coordinating a $300 million security budget. He became the public face of the Olympic effort, appearing in countless photographs and news stories and even on Olympics souvenir pins.
Lane Beattie was brought on as the State Olympic Officer. His focus was to monitor the $1.3 billion budget for the 2002 Winter Games as well as coordinating the state’s involvement with the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. Leo Memmott, newly released Mormon Mission President in Athens, Greece was hired to assist Beattie in his responsibilities.
Prior to the Olympics, Lane Beattie was president of the Utah Senate and had been for 12 years. Upon announcing that he would not run for re-election, Governor Michael Leavitt asked Lane to become involved with the Olympics and take over the position of State Olympic Officer. This position was supported by the legislature of Utah, its purpose being to oversee the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, approving its budgets. Lane was a perfect fit for this position because of his past experience in the legislature and history of the Olympics. Lane was able to convince the SLOC that they weren’t a “power unto themselves”, that they needed to be held accountable to the SOO for budgets and decisions made. This system of checks and balances played a huge key in the success of the Olympic Winter Games.