Saturday, October 6, 2012

3rd Saturday of Seven

Brittney Achter
Period 7
The Decision

An excited buzz was felt in the air
The TV flipped on, all the 5th graders were there.
A hush filled the room, the chattering stopped
On the list of the chosen, we hoped Utah would be on top.
A man stepped to the podium, all eyes were on him.
We thought we would burst, our impatience was over the rim.
He opened his mouth, his answer we feared.
"To the city of Salt Lake City," he said, and all of us cheered.

I wrote this poem in jr. high to describe what it was like on that day in 1995 when we found out the Olympics were coming to Utah. It was an exciting time. I remember as a ten year old fearing that my high school graduation in 2002 was going to be overshadowed by the Olympics, but figured it was a price worth paying.

Little did we know that the process for the securing the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City had been steeped in bribery. $10,000 here, $70,000 there paid to members of the International Olympic Committee. People in Mali, Libya, Cameroon, Swaziland, South Korea, and Finland, to name a few had received tens of thousands of dollars in tuition, healthcare, and direct payments from certain members of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee in order to secure Utah as the place for the 2002 Olympic games.

What was left in the wake was an organization that was over $400 million in the hole. Big name sponsors not wanting to be associated with corrupt games began pulling out on every side. National and international media descended upon an embarrassed Utah community, which now had only three years left to prepare to welcome the world.

Two years ago, I read the book, Turnaround in which Mitt Romney describes his approach from day one when he was asked to step in as CEO of the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympic games. While he didn't ask for the job, he did see it as "an opportunity to tackle a challenging situation in a worth cause" and took it head on. It struck me as I read the book and many times since how the leadership Mitt Romney displayed in restoring the honor and spirit of those Olympic games is much needed in our country today. I hardly dared dream that two years later he would occupy the position of Republican nominee for President of the United States, but, ladies and gentlemen, here we are.

When Mitt Romney addressed the media and public for the first time after being introduced as the new CEO of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, he made four promises:
1.  To hold the preparation for the Olympics to the highest standards of ethical conduct
2. To exercise fiscal discipline and spend no more money than was taken in
3. To protect Utah's environment
and 4. That the people of Utah would share in the Olympic experience

During one of his first board meetings with the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, Mitt Romney explained, "I talked about values and culture, about having fun, working as a team, and to abide by the highest standards of integrity. After what I thought was one of my most eloquent speeches, I asked [a colleague] what he thought about it. He said, 'Talk's cheap.' They had heard it all before from guys that had done some pretty bad stuff. Truly establishing a culture that fit the lofty purposes we espoused would require a lot more of me and the senior managers than good speeches."
And so he set out with his team to make it happen

Under Mitt Romney's direction, all Salt Lake Olympic Committee board meetings would be open to the public and media. This transparency would help build previously shattered trust. 

He built a culture at the Salt Lake Olympic Committee based on principles like teamwork, communication, integrity, fun and humor. He championed team members when they went through walls to get the impossible done, like finding a new technology sponsor for the computers, timing, scoring, broadcast and information networks when after 30 years, IBM dropped out.

Budget cuts came in many forms, here were some of the most interesting:

Mitt Romney traveled alone (without an entourage as had been the custom) to the International Olympic Committee meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland. He would stay in economy hotels rather than the five-star hotel previously arranged for him by the IOC. He would only stay one day to report instead of the originally allocated 7-10 days. Later many of these visits were done through videoconferencing, which saved additional money.

SLOC was responsible for providing accommodations for the International Olympic Committee. Mitt Romney himself asked that the IOC members stay in the Little America Hotel during the games rather than the five-star Grand America Hotel.

Free meals were not provided at board meetings. Members were asked to provide a dollar for a Coke and a dollar for a slice of pizza.

15% of paid positions were removed to be filled instead by volunteers.

The previous budget allowed $52 million for inflation throughout the preparation for the games. Everyone was asked to make do with 1999 dollars, to either "buy early or find a better deal."

The promises he made at the beginning of his assignment were promises he kept.
Utah shined brightly on the world stage and the athletes became the focus as the scandal was all but forgotten. The qualities the Olympics represent, achievement, sacrifice, competition, peace and brotherhood, were felt strongly, a blessing to the world five short months after the September 11 attacks. Really. I was there. I felt it. And he did it all transparently. At the end, there were no documents or budget records that needed to be adjusted to tell a different story or stuffed in a dark room somewhere. He did what he said he was going to do and he did it with everyone watching.

Mitt Romney made us a similar set of promises to our country on Wednesday night during the first presidential debate in Colorado. In many ways I think we as an American people feel like the staff Mitt Romney spoke to on his first day at the SLOC. Talk's cheap. "I'll cut the deficit." It's multiplied at a horrifying rate. "I'll create jobs." Unemployment is still a staggering problem. We felt this personally when it took my husband two years to find full-time work in his field. We've heard it all before from guys who haven't come through. I feel very much that this time is different. I feel like this man will do what he says he will do, and that we will see it happen. Mitt Romney spoke of what drove him during the roller coaster ride up to the Olympic games."What gave me energy was the passion I felt for the Games, for what they meant to America and our athletes... and for the thrill of taking on a turnaround project of such magnitude." I believe this man feels even more passionately about the United States of America and that he is ready for the job of President of the United States. I believe he will make good on the promises he's made to the American people. His record demonstrates that he's done it before.

I will continue to post a reason I have chosen to cast my vote the way I have each Saturday until the election. If you don't agree with me, that's okay.I have friends who are very dear to me who don't see politics they way I do.

 However, if you feel like it's the right thing to do, please share these posts through email and on Facebook and Pinterest with friends and family in your state and out of your state whose vote is undecided or maybe even decided.

P.S. There is a vice-presidential debate this Thursday. Watch it. More information here.

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