With only a few more days to go until the 2002 Winter Olympics end, all I can say is this: If you stayed home, you’re one sorry dog. In our lifetimes, Salt Lake City will likely never again rise to the scene it is just now witnessing. Being a part of that has been a great occasion that will not be soon forgotten. Unless you’re one of the unhappy Salt Lake City merchants, that is.
After the first weekend, we all heard about the locals staying away for any number of reasons-parking hassles, price gouging, ethnic mixing. By the second weekend though, there were enough people on the streets to fill every club and restaurant in downtown Salt Lake three times over. But the sad fact is that some places are doing great while others remain disappointed in what can fairly be described as a winner-take-all short track ice sprint. Who will be left standing after the Games is anyone’s guess.
My own theory regarding the supposed lack of crowds downtown is a simple one: Utahns are cheapskates. Name another city where scalpers get scalped. A good friend of mine formerly owned two franchises of a national retail store in Provo and Layton. I asked him once how things were going. He’s a Mormon from Central Utah (where pioneer-stock Mormons are frugal, not cheap), so he should know what he’s talking about when he told me that “Mormons are so cheap, if I sold them silver dollars for 75 cents, they’d ask me when they go on sale.” Ouch.
The poster boy for cheapness during these Games can only be Rep. Chris Cannon. Remember that it was he and his brother, Joe, who made millions while reviving and then bankrupting Geneva Steel. They all but run the Utah Republican Party now—apparently their reward for dissing thousands of steelworkers. For some reason, their actions are deemed admirable in this land where sheep are sheep and the men are too. If Geneva Steel were Enron, we’d be having hearings now. On the eve of the Games, Chris Cannon threw a tizzy because he couldn’t get free Olympic passes. He claimed he should get them because he was some sort of ambassador. Yeah, right, he and Kenneth Lay. I’ll bet it was Cannon who asked for the discount in my buddy’s store.
But there’s still time to be part of the Games, even on a frugal budget—there’s plenty of free or inexpensive stuff to go around. We’ve never behaved like the local chamber around here, but our local merchants have put on a pretty great face for the Games. Their reward should be better than some of the lame-ass excuses we’ve heard. Your reward will be that you can count on Chris Cannon not spoiling the party.