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Pre-Olympic extravaganza considered

Winter-sports organizers have started holding initial talks about staging a pre-2010 Winter Olympic extravaganza in the Park City area, a bow to the local Games legacy and the excitement that the competitions create locally.

The people involved with the talks acknowledge that they have not delved into the details of what could be a series of sporting events and related celebrations before the Games open in Vancouver, British Columbia. It seems likely, however, the Utah Olympic Park, at the least, would be involved.

It is unclear what role the Park City area’s three mountain resorts would play, and people involved are unsure which sporting disciplines would be showcased. Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort held competitions during the 2002 Winter Olympics, with PCMR staging skiing and snowboarding events and Deer Valley hosting skiers and freestylists.

The Park City area, with the two former Olympic skiing venues, the bobsled track and ski jumps at the Utah Olympic Park and the headquarters of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, is positioned as one of the nation’s top winter-sports cities. Many U.S. Ski Team members either live locally or spend significant time in Park City, and the Olympic Park offers one of the few places for all-year training for ski jumpers and aerial skiers.

Enthusiasm for winter sports remains high in the Park City area, with Deer Valley’s annual freestyle World Cup drawing solid crowds and the Olympic Park holding World Cup-level competitions each winter. Interest typically increases in a Winter Olympic year.

"When you talk about energy, you’re right on," Bob Wheaton, the Deer Valley president and general manager, says, noting his resort has not held formal talks with the others.

Colin Hilton, the CEO of the Utah Athletic Foundation, the organization that runs the Olympic Park and the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, says, potentially, there could be pre-Vancouver freestyle events at the Olympic Park on the New Year’s Eve before the Olympics.

"The Park City area and Utah in general should be very much focused on trying to host a number of these Olympic trials," says Hilton, who was a high-ranking figure in the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

Hilton anticipates widespread support from regular Parkites and says many athletes already are in Park City living and training. He envisions the moguls skiers possibly competing in an after-dark contest at the Olympic Park.

"If we did it right, it could be quite a spectacle," Hilton says.

The 2010 Olympics are scheduled Feb. 12-28, and they will be the first in North America since the Salt Lake Games. Approximately half of the events in 2002 were held in Park City and the surrounding area.

The talks about pre-Olympic events in Park City have not yet advanced, but Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council recently were told they had begun. The elected officials did not speak at length about the possibilities.

It is likely organizers would want to hold a public celebration during the events, and City Hall would be required to approve celebrations if they are planned on public property inside the city limits. Park City officials have long supported similar events.

The Ski and Snowboard Association indicates there could be interest in holding moguls, aerials and Nordic combined competitions if a pre-Olympic event is held like the one under discussion. A spokesman says the association has sought proposals from "several potential venues, including the Utah Olympic Park."

Bob Kollar, who directs special events for the Park City Chamber/Bureau, says the talks so far have centered on either late December 2009 or early the following month. He says pre-Olympic events could showcase Park City as a top-shelf winter-sports city.

"It bodes well for our visitors and locals to get involved and into the Olympic spirit," he says.


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