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Rotary International Convention Coming to Utah

Rotary International Convention Coming to Utah

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Keith McCord ReportingThe Salt Palace Convention Center will be packed this weekend for the 98th annual Rotary International Convention. As many as 20,000 members from 200 countries will be here; that makes it one of the largest conventions ever held here. It's also the largest international gathering since the 2002 Olympics.

Rotary members from around the world will gather in the Salt Palace for Sunday's opening ceremony. This is only the second time this has happened. The last Rotary convention here was 88 years ago.

Scott Leckman, President of the Rotary Club of Salt Lake, said, "We hosted the international convention back in 1919, so we know this doesn't come around very often. At that time there were 3,000 attendees."

Rotary is the world's first service club, organized in 1905. It has 1.2 million members now, whose mission is to provide worldwide humanitarian service: everything from disaster relief to poverty, hunger and environmental concerns.

In 1985, Rotary made a commitment to immunize all children in the world against polio. Since then, $600 million has been raised and used in that effort.

Salt Lake City wasn't supposed to host the Rotary convention this year; New Orleans was. Salt Lake's turn was scheduled for 2011. But since New Orleans hasn't totally recovered from the hurricanes, the two cities agreed to swap dates.

Rotary's International President, William Boyd, was impressed how Salt Lake was able to get organized on short notice. "And I really thought we had a venue which would turn out a top-class convention. And I'm right. That's what we're going to get," he said.

The convention will also generate a $15 million surge into the local economy. As far as conventions go, this one is different than most, in that attendees bring their entire families and then stay here longer, post convention, to see the sights.

President of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, Scott Beck, said, "And we know that this is an impact that we'll feel for many, many years here, in Salt Lake, and especially throughout the state."

Donny Osmond will perform during the opening ceremony on Sunday. Featured speakers include Hyrum Smith of Franklin Covey, and Bill Gates Sr., co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Rotary convention runs through next Wednesday.

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