Salt Lake City, Utah Oct. 23, 2001 (AP by Tim Korte)--Skeletal bleachers rise at the bottom of ski runs. Lights have been cleaned and brightened along the bobsled track. Miles of wires snake over hills and through freshly painted buildings.
With four months to go, organizers are hitting full stride in a $100 million effort to assemble stadium seating, trailers, tents, cables and other fixtures as they prepare to stage the 2002 Winter Olympics.
``It's just a massive undertaking,'' said Fraser Bullock, chief operating officer for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.
And a massive effort that organizers hope will make the Salt Lake Games among the most organized and prepared. Most venues will be fully operational by the end of the year, comfortably ahead of the Feb. 8 opening ceremony.
``All of the venues, we're very confident, will be completed well ahead of schedule and ready for our technical rehearsal, which comes up at the end of October,'' chief organizer Mitt Romney said.
The most complete venue right now is Soldier Hollow, where Nordic skiing and biathlon will be staged. Bleachers are up, more than 60 trailers are in place and access roads are paved.
At Snowbasin, site of the downhill and super-G ski races, construction is almost finished on a 21,000-seat stadium. Parking lots and roads are ready, and work continues on privately built day lodges.
At the Utah Olympic Park, the venue for ski jumping, bobsled, luge and skeleton, workers removed and cleaned every light along the 4,300-foot sliding track to meet international broadcast standards.
The track has been operational for years, becoming a stop on the World Cup tours. But when scaffolding went up recently for a new electronic timing system, a buzz went through the Olympic Park's employees.
``Everybody knew these things were going to happen,'' said venue manager Craig Lehto. ``But when the scaffolding went up, everybody said, 'Oh, cool. That's where the timing board is going to go.'''
Evolving parking lots below the park are cluttered with dozens of broadcast booths that will be hauled up the hillside and secured on high scaffolds along the track and below the green ski jump landings.
Workers have poured footings for the 20,000-seat stadium that will be built on a steep hillside just below the jumps.
``That is a very complex structure,'' Bullock said. ``We put in concrete footings and the fill had to be compacted properly. The engineers have double- and triple-checked it, and we're in good shape to start erecting scaffolding.''
Some sites, like skiing and snowboard venue Park City Mountain Resort, are slightly behind schedule. Bullock isn't concerned, since crews will be reassigned as other projects are completed.
The Delta Center, the venue for figure skating and short-track speedskating, won't be available until just before the games. The arena is home to the NBA's Utah Jazz, who play there six days before the opening ceremony.
``We get that venue at midnight on Feb. 2,'' Bullock said. ``To mitigate very difficult circumstances, our plan is to complete as much work elsewhere as we can. Then we can focus all our resources on the Delta Center.''
The University of Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium, which is the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies, and the dormitories that will be converted into the athletes' village will be taken over by SLOC shortly before the Olympics.
The point, Bullock said, is to be ready ahead of time.
``This will really give us a leg up on being prepared for the games because we know we will have some problems,'' Bullock said. ``Anything could happen with weather, late deliveries, those kinds of things. We need to build a cushion.''
Bullock said Salt Lake organizers realized, after a trip to Sydney for the 2000 Summer Olympics, how important it is to have everything in place long before the world arrives.
``There was such a remarrkable calm in Sydney around the venues, compared to the last-minute horror stories, the rush jobs, we'd heard about,'' he recalled. ``They built out their venues early. We came back and adopted that approach.''
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