Olympics provide advertising opportunity for Utah

Olympics provide advertising opportunity for Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Have you noticed how often the 2002 games have been mentioned during NBC's Olympic coverage? That's music to the ears of Utah tourism officials, and it certainly will help the state economically in the future as well.

Olympic mentions bring tourism money

From the moguls competition, to the pairs figure skating, to interviews with the athletes, every few minutes there's another announcer or athlete mentioning the Salt Lake games. Feature stories include visual images from 2002 as well.

All these mentions and images are worth millions in free advertising for Utah. For a state where tourism is a huge part of the economy, that's a big deal.

"Prior to the Olympics in 2002, tourism was a $4.2 billion industry. Now it's a $7.1 billion industry. That's a huge jump in a short period of time," said Laura Barnes, tourism communications manager for the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Fraser Bullock, the chief operating officer of the 2002 games, says Utah's Olympic "bounce" continues still. Not only did the games attract tourists, it also attracted businesses to move here.

Bullock just returned from Vancouver, and said people are still talking about 2002.

"After I went to the opening ceremonies, one of the IOC members pulled me aside and said, ‘These were nice opening ceremonies here in Vancouver, but nothing like Salt Lake,'" Bullock said.

And he says don't forget about the athletes who live and train in Utah.

"That will be an Olympic legacy. Now with these facilities and all of the teams moving here, and the training coming here, we'll see more and more of these Olympians who are Utah natives, and that's a wonderful thing," Bullock said.

Olympic mentions help Utah Sports Commission

Members of the Utah Sports Commission also like to hear Utah mentioned in Olympic coverage. That's their job in Vancouver: to keep Utah fresh on people's minds.

"We want to continue to bring sporting events to Utah," says Jeff Robbins, president of the Utah Sports Commission.

Since the Salt Lake Olympics, the sports commission has brought over 400 different sporting events to Utah, and they're not done yet.

"You'll see Iron Man's coming to Utah, Xterra events; we're involved in a lot of World Cup events. We also helped in relocating the U.S. Speed Skating team to Utah a few years ago," Robbins says.

But whenever it's an Olympic year, Robbins and his team head out to talk business.

"We want to keep working in the Olympic space and keep those relationships intact," he says.

Of course, Robbins says he would love to see another Olympics in Utah.

"We are unique in that if you look at any other site that's hosted an Olympics, I don't know that there's anyone that all the venues are still being used," Robbins says.

But don't hold your breath for another bid here soon.

"The USOC has to decide if they are going to bid on another games. Right now, there is no bid that they've put on the table for a summer [or] sinter games," Robbins says.

It could be another year or two before the U.S. Olympic Committee makes that decision. Though it's rare for host cities to get another Olympics, Robbins believes the state could pull it off.

"If we continue to keep all the venues in place, and success, I guess anything is possible. We'd like to think so," Robbins says.

So while games are being won and lost, and medals are being awarded, Robbins and his team will be behind it all, keeping Utah fresh in the worlds' mind.

"It was arguably the most successful winter games ever to be held, and we're doing what we can to keep that memory alive," Robbins says.

The next winter Olympics will be in Sochi, Russia, in 2014. Bulloch is already helping Olympic officials in that city with planning.


Story compiled with contributions from Keith McCord and Amanda Butterfield.

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