Corradini reflects on 2002 Olympics |

Corradini reflects on 2002 Olympics

As Utah residents keep their eyes glued to the latest developments in Beijing, many can’t help but to think back to our own time in the spotlight. The reminiscing is all the more poignant for Deedee Corradini, who served as mayor of Salt Lake City from 1992 to 2000 and played a key role in helping to secure the city’s bid to host the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Few people know better than Corradini what an arduous process it is for a city to win an Olympic bid. "It was a tremendous uphill battle to even get any attention from the IOC," says Corradini. Members of the Salt Lake Bid Committee would literally sit in the lobby for hours waiting to talk to someone.

Corradini has watched Beijing’s pursuit to win a bid since 1990, and she has met many of the Chinese officials who are now working on the Summer Olympics. "It’s a real thrill for me to actually see them hosting," says Corradini.

Jack Gallivan, former editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, sparked the idea for Salt Lake City to host the Winter Olympics nearly 30 years before the city received a bid. Corradini had paid close attention to the state’s efforts to host the Games, and when she was elected, she utilized her political leverage to push for a bid. She encouraged the city to go ahead and build venues before the chance to host was within reach. This impressed the IOC.

In June 1995, the IOC announced that Salt Lake had won the bid. One of Corradini’s favorite memories is staying up that night in Budapest and partying with then-Governor Mike Levitt and others until the wee hours of the morning.

Once Salt Lake City was selected, Corradini faced a similar challenge to Beijing’s: how to prepare a city for its worldwide debut.

"You are projecting an image of your city to the entire world," says Corradini. "Any issues or problems could put a stain on your Olympics and on the city itself."

At the top of a long list of preparations for the Games was improving Salt Lake’s public transportation. Corradini realized that transportation was a huge issue during her visit to Atlanta for the 2000 Summer Olympics. She worked hard to gain funding and approval for the TRAX light-rail system, which she believed would be essential to the success of the Games.

Another challenge was deciding where things should be located for example, the Olympic Oval. It was originally slated for downtown, but the community of Kearns really wanted it built there. "Every city wanted a piece of the Games we wanted to get every neighborhood involved," says Corradini.

When asked about the controversy surrounding Beijing’s obsession with the image they are portraying, Corradini says she can relate. "There’s no question that anyone who hosts the games want to portray the most positive image," she says. "I think it indicates how desperately they want to be seen in a positive light." Salt Lake faced similar pressure. The city was relatively unknown to international viewers before the Olympics, so the goal was to show the world its beauty rather than dispel any negative connotations, which is to some extent what Beijing is grappling with. "It’s coming from a different mindset," says Corradini.

Although Corradini’s term ended before the Games began, she served as part of the U.S. Delegation at the Olympics, which includes all of the participating athletes and delegates. She worked closely with the Salt Lake Olympic Committee (SLOC), her successor Mayor Rocky Anderson and the U.S. Olympic Committee and was able to attend many of the events.

She remains involved with the Olympic movement as she lobbies for the inclusion of women’s ski jumping in the 2010 Vancouver Games. Corradini has served as president of Women’s Ski Jumping-USA for the past four years. "I really do love the Olympics and I believe that they can promote world peace by bringing the young people together it can change the world by changing their attitudes," she said.

Corradini’s relationship with the IOC has become strained as the battle over women’s ski jumping has gotten tied up in litigation. "We tried to do things in a positive, diplomatic way," she says, but the road has been rocky. Still, Corradini remains cautiously optimistic about the effort and thinks that after Beijing, people will shift their focus to Vancouver and show their support for the women ski jumpers.

Reflecting on the Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Corradini says the best part was the thrill of working on a worldwide event unlike anything else. "We could not have done a better job, and watching the Olympics has a different meaning for those in Salt Lake City because of our own experience."

As for Beijing, she is elated that they finally got the chance to host and she thinks they have done an admirable job. "I’m glad we didn’t have to follow Beijing," she remarks. She also shares a piece of advice for Vancouver and future host cities: "It’s a lot of work, but there is nothing more rewarding Put your best foot forward and enjoy it."

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