Olympic onslaught: Salt Lake City braces for the winter games

  • Athlete in training at Utah Winter Sports Park

    Salt Lake Organizing Committee photo
 

Note: this front-page editor's note introduces this issue's feature story.

If Salt Lake City were held to the same standards as cigarette manufacturers, there would be warning signs on its inbound roads: "Chaos Ahead!" and "Allow yourself an extra four hours!" Residents joke that the fastest way to get from suburban Salt Lake to the Salt Lake International Airport is to drive to Denver and then fly back.

The area had problems entering 1997. Healthy growth, a term some see as oxymoronic, had sent the metro area spreading over agricultural land, engulfing small towns. At higher elevations, in the foothills and canyons of the Wasatch Range, higher-income folks were building new homes, thankful that they were looking down at and not living in the smog and congestion.

Everything got worse last summer, when work began in earnest for the 2002 Winter Olympics. An entire urban stretch of Interstate highway is now being torn up; light rail is being built; surface streets are being redone. All the while, a slew of construction projects related to the Olympics - skating arenas, a stadium for the opening ceremonies - jam the streets with construction workers and delivery trucks.

The reflexive reaction to sprawl at the edges and chaos at the center is that Salt Lake City and its suburbs lack planning.

The opposite is true. The articles here show that the sprawl, construction and chaos were carefully, precisely planned. Planning brought high-tech and other industries to Salt Lake in the late 1980s, and set off the first spurt of growth. And more planning then overlaid the Winter Olympics on an area already stressed.

In reaction, some in the state are now calling for a different kind of planning - ameliorative planning - to soften the harsh impacts the state's political and moneyed elite have visited upon the state. They are also asking the powerful Utahns who "planned" the present situation, much of it with the help of tax dollars, to behave in a less secretive and high-handed way.

Those in command show no signs of relinquishing power. Why should they? They worked for more than a decade to set Utah on a path that will keep their political and economic interests dominant into the next century.

But the game is not over. Well in the lead are those who wish to see the Salt Lake Valley filled with housing and businesses, and to see the state's relatively modest ski resorts expand to rival Vail and Aspen, whatever it does to the quality of life. But now, thanks to the rush to prepare for the Olympics, it is no longer just Utah's environmentalists who understand Utah's dominant political and economic game. The four years leading up to the Olympics will be more interesting, and may even be more competitive, than the two weeks of sliding and gliding in February 2002.

High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • EVENTS AND ANNUAL FUND COORDINATOR
    The Events and Annual Fund Coordinator is responsible for managing and coordinating the Henry's Fork Foundation's fundraising events for growing the membership base, renewing and...
  • EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Position Description: The Education Director is the primary leader of Colorado Canyons Association's (CCA) education programs for students and adults on the land and rivers...
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...
  • WATERSHED RESTORATION DIRECTOR
    $58k-$70k + benefits to oversee watershed restoration projects that fulfill our strategic goals across urban and rural areas within the bi-national Santa Cruz and San...