Presidential hopeful cheers on Reno-Tahoe Olympics | SierraSun.com

Presidential hopeful cheers on Reno-Tahoe Olympics

Tom Gardner
Associated Press Writer

RENO, (AP) ” Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney praised organizers of an effort to bring the 2018 Winter Olympics to the Reno-Tahoe area, offering suggestions and encouragement but not an endorsement.

Romney promised that if northern Nevada gets the nod from the U.S. Olympic Committee ” and he gets the presidency ” he will do everything he can to bring the games to this country.

“If I happen to be president, you can bet if you’re the host city, I will go to work to get the games in the United States. I will go to work to get the games for Reno-Tahoe.”

But Romney carefully avoided saying anything that might sound like an endorsement since other areas where he will be campaigning might also seek the Winter Games.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Salt Lake isn’t a competitor again,” he said.

The former Massachusetts governor managed the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, helping to lift the scandal-ridden event from near collapse in 1999 to a $100 million success at its conclusion.

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“It was not a Mitt Romney production. It was a team production,” he said.

“I would not have guessed that it would be the experience of my lifetime, professionally,” he told members of the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition meeting Tuesday at Mount Rose-Ski Tahoe southwest of Reno.

“It is worth stretching for,” he said. “Just getting to touch the games and put your hands on it will be something you’ll never forget.

“Give up all your money, give up your jobs, give all it takes to bring the games and I’ll be right with you.”

Most of his informal 20-minute address recalled the 2002 Winter Games, with some advice ranging from the serious to the quirky.

On the serious side, he urged the organizers to admit upfront to any gaffes along the way.

Less seriously, he said Salt Lake City organizers found that when they had to haul snow to the cross country and biathlon venues, it stuck to the sides of the truck bed. The solution? Lots and lots of spray-on Pam.

Romney recalled skiing at Squaw Valley when he was attending Stanford University in the 1960s, a few years after the resort hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics.

“We did it before, we can do it again,” said Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who chairs the Reno-Tahoe Olympic coalition. Krolicki, who also heads Nevada’s Commission on Tourism and its Commission on Economic Development, has made winning the 2018 Olympics a key goal of his office.

The coalition must make its bid to the United States Olympic Committee by next summer. If it succeeds there, it will make its bid to the International Olympic Committee in 2009. A decision will be made in 2011.

While the Reno-Tahoe area already has some 20,000 hotel rooms, with more being added on to Sierra ski resorts, Krolicki said organizers would have to plan for such venues as a ski jump and a world class skating rink.

“Even if we don’t secure the games, having these new venues, new infrastructure would be well worth it. It would be a win-win,” he said.

He also welcomed Romney’s suggestion that transportation improvements, including highway upgrades, additional buses and possibly a light rail system should be part of the federal government’s commitment to holding the games in the United States and not a burden for local governments.

Jim Vanden Heuvel, chief executive officer of the coalition, said that thinking reversed decades of deflecting responsibility.

“It’s nice to hear that he is thinking outside the box,” he said. “It was invaluable for my board to hear from a presidential candidate.

Romney’s visit wasn’t supposed to be a political one, but the candidate couldn’t resist slipping in a jab.

“I’ve run businesses, I’ve run the Olympics and I’ve helped run a state. You’ve got three people running for president on the Democratic side who have never run a corner store, let alone one of the largest enterprises in the world.”