By Clare Ogilvie
It produced jobs in a time of economic recession, boosted national morale after a terrorist attack, turned a modest profit, and was certified climate neutral.
But the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympics also fell short on promises of low income housing, did little to offset a drop in tourism in the months following the Games, and created some heated debate over land use issues after a ski resort was given park land for houses as part of an Olympic deal.
It was also plagued with a scandal that shook the Olympic brand and forced organizers to tighten the budget.
All of these experiences offer lessons for the organizers of the Whistler and Vancouver 2010 Games concludes a new report on Salt Lake Games commissioned by 2010 officials.
It is the last of three reports the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC) produced on past Olympics in North America.
The first two on Lake Placid and Calgary were released in the last two weeks.
At the top of the list of lessons from Salt Lake is that not everything can be controlled, and that includes world politics, the national economy, the weather, and even the judging process.
That’s one lesson already taken to heart by VANOC, which recently ran a simulation of the Games, where all kinds of things went wrong including injuries to athletes, and poor weather.
Hand in hand with that lesson is being prepared to deal with the problems by having contingency plans in place.
And, said Salt Lake officials, Games organizers must provide top notch accommodation, training and competition venues for the athletes. VANOC is paying particular attention to that lesson and already has competitors vying for the best spots in both athletes’ villages. The 2010 accommodation has already been described as the best ever.
But perhaps the biggest lesson is to nurture a positive self-image as the Olympic host, for it is that image that will be seen around the world bringing legacies that will last for years beyond the event.
“This is not necessarily a tangible legacy,” said Fraser Bullock, who was CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.
“But the experience of hosting the world brought our community together in a very unique way that we have never experienced before, unifying working together and allowing us to leave a long term impression on the world in terms of being an Olympic city.
“Really that is the primary reason for hosting a Games.”