BYU prepares for 2002 Olympics despite scandal

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    By P. KELLY SMITH

    In less than three years, tens of thousands of tourists, foreigners and athletes will be descending upon the Beehive State for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

    Scandal or no scandal, the show must go on — even for BYU who has its own Olympic Steering and Operating Committee. G. Franklin Lewis was appointed committee chair on Dec. 14, 1998 and will work closely with the SLOC in all aspects of BYU involvement.

    With ice hockey being the only scheduled venue for Utah County so far, BYU is still looking for ways to prepare for an event of this magnitude.

    The University of Utah and Weber State University have announced they will not hold classes during the Olympics. BYU is scheduled to hold classes, but G. Franklin Lewis said the committee has looked at the issue of being out of school for two weeks.

    “The admissions office worked out a plan where we could have been out for two weeks. The problem with that is if we did that and even if we optimistically involved 5,000 people, we’d have 25,000-35,000 students that wouldn’t be involved. So what do you do with the lost time?” he said.

    Lewis said the two-week break becomes a disruption, especially for the students who volunteer their time.

    “For students to have a meaningful experience, they have to be trained. How do we carve out a time for students to be trained and have admissions participate?” Lewis said.

    Plans are not finalized, but the committee will build from college and department up and work out some block schedule, where students will train as volunteers the first half of the semester.

    According to Lewis, the SLOC is excited about the notion of having BYU students as volunteers.

    The SLOC is looking for 8,000 volunteers. All volunteers go through a careful screening process. This year they’re having some trial events like ice skating or skiing, where they test the teachers on how to work with the volunteers.

    Lewis said when it comes to choosing volunteers, it really comes down to aptitude and availability.

    “We’re trying to make sure we get our share of internships for our students,” he said. “There should be a place for everyone interested, students or graduates.”

    All volunteers must register with the SLOC. Eighty percent of volunteers have already registered electronically.

    Paul Warner, a member of the steering committee, is in charge of placing students in internships and coordinating the volunteer effort. He anticipates 4,000-5,000 student volunteers and hopes to establish a sign-up area with Campus Involvement that will list the different events and jobs available for students.

    “We need to look at the things students might want to do and see what type of commitment we’ll get from them,” Warner said.

    Warner said the committee is looking at providing credit for students who serve internships. The committee is looking at offering academic internships with tutoring, online support and interpreters — areas the university could really assist in.

    Carri Jenkins, director of BYU media communications, works directly with the Church Olympic Committee. Recently she’s been coordinating visits from journalists abroad. She said a Bulgarian and Ukrainian group spent a few days in Salt Lake City and then came to BYU for a day.

    “They have a keen interest in the languages taught here,” Jenkins said.

    Jenkins said they had one reporter from the Ukraine who needed to file a story. The reporter found a Russian keyboard at BYU’s Humanities Research Center and was able to e-mail her story home, Jenkins said.

    Jenkins is also in charge of preparing a fact sheet about BYU for the expected 11,000 accredited journalists who will come to Utah to cover the Olympics.

    “Journalists won’t be spending much time in Utah County, but this information sheet will have facts and pictures that can be downloaded from the Web anywhere in the world,” Jenkins said.

    News of the bribery scandal hasn’t affected BYU’s decision to support and aid the SLOC.

    “I think the only impact the scandal had on our efforts is to slow us down a bit and make us a little more cautious,” Lewis said. “We want to be careful not to be associated in any way with something that could discredit BYU.”

    Lewis agrees that the SLOC has had a more difficult time in working through a new president while dismissing a couple of guilty individuals. But he said he is confident that all will be restored to its proper order.

    “There is a great commitment and character about the people involved here,” he said.

    Lewis believes the heritage in this state will help remove whatever tar remains from the scandal.

    “It’s unfortunate we have this incident,” he said. “We just need to move forward and show what we can do.”

    With the stigma of the scandal slowly weakening, BYU’s Olympic committee is looking ahead to the challenges of security, housing, parking and an additional head-count of tourists.

    Lewis said a number of people have stepped forward, offering ideas and concepts on how to deal with the enormous tasks involved with the Olympics.

    “We’d like to include as many people as possible, and generate many ideas,” he said. “We’d also like to be the most knowledgeable campus when it comes to culture and name geography.”

    The BYU Olympic Steering Committee is divided into six subgroups, each headed by a committee member. The six groups are staff, faculty, language, performing arts, students and communications.

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