An Olympic eyesore?

  The Utah Sports Authority is etching out a 120-meter ski jump on a mountainside near Park City for the 2002 Winter Olympics, but the project isn't inspiring Olympic fever. Instead, it's raising the ire of local critics, who lament the ugliness of the scarred slope.


"There was no environmental input whatsoever, and consequently we're going to have an eyesore forever," says Ann Wechsler of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club. She is critical of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's environmental advisory board for not paying more attention to the project.


Dean Gillam, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Olympics coordinator, doesn't think there was much the advisory board could have done. "I am not sure there would have been a lot more mitigation that they could have done had they come to us first," he says.


The ski jump is part of the Utah Winter Sports Park and lies in the scenic, quickly developing corridor leading into Park City. The Utah Sports Authority, the state body charged with building the $45.6 million park, will turn it over to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee this summer. The ski jump came into the media spotlight when newly appointed Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney criticized the appearance of the gash.


According to Diane Conrad, the organizing committee's director of environmental programs, only partial restoration will be possible, since the slope is mostly rock. But she adds, "I think it's an aesthetic problem. I don't think it's an environmental problem. The erosion control there is superb."


*Tim Westby