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Keep Olympic expectations realistic warns Park City

Keep Olympic expectations realistic warns Park City’s Chamber of Commerce manager Expectations of profit from the 2010 Olympic Games should not be Olympic in proportion.

Keep Olympic expectations realistic warns Park City’s Chamber of Commerce manager

Expectations of profit from the 2010 Olympic Games should not be Olympic in proportion.

Those words of wisdom and many more were offered last week by Bill Malone, manager of the Chamber of Commerce and Resort Associations in Park City, Utah, which hosted several events of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

"Keep your expectations realistic," he told over 20 people at meetings hosted by the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation.

Those business people who offered space at a fair price were treated fairly by companies coming to town, Malone said. But people who tried to gouge others usually lost out in the end.

Malone shared the story of one international company, which offered to rent a large luxury ski in/ski out home for corporate entertaining for $65,000, for the duration of the Games.

The property management company turned it down saying they wanted twice that much.

"That property sat empty for the Games," said Malone.

"It is a matter of pricing correctly. People experienced with the Games were very willing to pay premium prices. They just weren’t willing to pay stupid prices."

Malone said prices were high as the Games moved closer and closer to their start date.

But as the final months approached prices began to drop as people realized they had to be more realistic in what they could expect.

Few Park City landlords evicted their tenants either. On the one hand landlords were worried about how they would find tenants after the Games and on the other hand few companies wanted a reputation for kicking out the little guy.

"Nobody wanted to be the corporation that leased out space used for years by the ‘mom and pop’ store on Main Street," said Malone.

"That just wouldn’t look good in the media."

Months out it was mostly corporations looking for space to entertain and advertise. But as the final days drew near it was mostly small groups or individual event-goers looking for accommodation or space and they would only pay affordable prices.

"Many people were willing to wait until the last minute in terms of their bookings," said Malone, adding that tickets were available for just about every event, even the sold-out ones.

There was also concern in town about how the labour force would be affected by the Games.

Malone said those involved with the Games decided not to legislate on the issue, preferring instead to educate landlords and tenants alike in the hopes of protecting everyone’s rights.

"Really, we had very few problems," said Malone.

But Park City’s success in this area may be related to the fact that they have more than enough retail space. In fact there are usually empty storefronts.

And more space and accommodation were constructed leading up to the Games.

Workers also live in several surrounding communities, like Heber.

Whistler already has a fierce market for retail and housing and with no new building expected in the near future the resort’s experience may be quite different.

When it came to housing the workers needed to build the event venues and all the security, Malone said the Salt Lake Organizing committee took care of that and it didn’t present much of a problem.

Other fun facts Malone shared included the number of SLOC dogs consumed: 1.6 million.

Also, 997,000 people rode on the public busses which ran 22 hours a day for 17 days; 91 per cent of all trash was recycled; 426,000 feet of toilet paper was used; and 1,300 parking tickets were issued.

Malone also offered some advice to Whistler should the resort, along with Vancouver, win the right to host the Games in 2010. The announcement will be made by the International Olympic Committee July 3, 2003.

"Get together and talk," suggested Malone.

Businesses and other stakeholders in Park City met every month for the 15 months leading up to the Games. Up to 300 people attended those meetings.

Tours of the Olympic venues were also conducted so everyone in town could talk knowledgeably about the Games.

Park City set up its own group of volunteer information officers, so the guest experience was seamless and excellent.

A 150-page brochure was produced for the community of Park City outlining parking, transportation, and many other issues any stakeholder would need to know to survive the Games.

And the Chamber organized the mail out of an "Olympic myths" brochure to past guests, to make sure everyone knew the resort was open as usual leading up to the Games, during the Games and especially after the event was over.

"We received phone calls from people asking of we were open for business," said Malone, adding that during the Games occupancy ran at about 85 per cent.

The Chamber also used the Games to invite and entertain hundreds of people who worked in the media. Travel writers, who had had no interest in Park City before the Games, accepted invitations and wrote hundreds of articles about the resort.

One of the highlights, said Malone, was a spread in the New York Times on the restaurants of Park City.

Park City also decided some time before the Games came that they wanted to create their own image and give the guest an experience above and beyond the Games: An experience that would bring tourists back in the future.

Park City became ‘The Alpine Heart" of the Games and set to work producing its own celebration.

The cost: $1.5 million US.

That covered street parties, fireworks and many other events, which kept about 30,000 people on Main Street during the height of the Games.

The money came partly from funds raised by Chamber businesses, local government, and sponsors. The Chamber started raising funds four years prior to the start of the Games.

Many in Whistler are concerned that locals will be left paying for cost overruns of the Games. History has shown that once the Games are off and running, so are the bills.

In Park City’s case, said Malone, local government raised the money spent on the Games by renting space for the event and making deals with sponsors.

The local library, for example, was rented to the Norwegian government for $250,000. Local schools, which were closed for the month of February, were also rented out.

Said Malone: "From a municipal taxpayer’s point of view it was a net gain."