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Steve Griffin, KSL

Olympic dream: New affordable housing, jobs, environmental standards sought

By Lisa Riley Roche, KSL | Updated - Oct 9th, 2019 @ 6:58pm | Posted - Oct 9th, 2019 @ 1:33pm



SALT LAKE CITY — When Bill Tibbitts started work at the Crossroads Urban Center shortly before the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, he had to scramble to deal with Utahns being kicked out of the cheap downtown rooms they rented to make way for Olympic visitors willing to pay exorbitant rates.

With Salt Lake City bidding to host another Winter Games as soon as 2030, Tibbitts wants to avoid sending struggling locals to a temporary homeless shelter “so that rich tourists could have a really unpleasant room by their standards that could have been home to somebody else.”

So he, along with a broad-based coalition of groups ranging from union labor to environmental activists to advocates for good government, the poor and west-side communities, have joined together to come up with a new set of standards for holding an Olympics they hope to see adopted by backers of the bid.

The Utah Community Benefit Coalition held a news conference Wednesday to lay out standards they said embrace “the values of inclusion, fairness and sustainability,’ including ensuring affordable housing, jobs that pay a living wage, better public transportation, additional homeless services, accessibility and environmental safeguards.

The coalition’s vision for the Salt Lake Olympic bid also calls for adopting a code of conduct for both government and private security and oversight of surveillance technology used for security purposes, as well as creating a community advisory board to monitor progress on all of the standards.

“We know that hosting another Games has tremendous potential to be the catalyst Utah needs to invest in critical infrastructure as we continue to grow,” said Lauren Simpson, Better Utah Institute policy director. But, she said, “we want to make sure that all Utahns benefit and not just a top socio-economic tier.”

Simpson said the coalition hopes to enter into a contract that should strengthen the bid.

The coalition has yet to approach the former chief operating officer of the 2002 Winter Games, Fraser Bullock, or other leaders of the effort that led to the U.S. Olympic Committee selecting Salt Lake City over Denver last December as the nation’s choice to bid for an as-yet-unspecified future Winter Games.

“As a true community advocacy effort, we felt like it was important for us to come together. It’s a pretty historic coalition. You don’t see, for example, labor and environmental groups teaming up,” Simpson said. “We would certainly consider this an invitation for the exploratory committee and eventually, the organizing committee.”

The International Olympic Committee has recently adopted a new, more flexible process for selecting bid cities that focuses on community support. Contenders for the 2030 Winter Games, the next to be awarded, may include Sapporo, Japan, and Stockholm, Sweden.

Biskupski’s spokesman, Matthew Rojas, said Salt Lake City succeeded in becoming the USOPC choice for a future Olympics “in large part because of the enthusiasm of the local community and because of how Utah turned our legacy infrastructure — from TRAX to venues — into true community assets.”

Rojas said one of the key pillars of the IOC’s new selection process “is to ensure future Games are sustainable for communities, this includes true public engagement and transparency. If Salt Lake City is asked to move forward in the process to host the Games again, the community can expect to be a part of the conversation and planning.”

Lisa Riley Roche

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