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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 08May01

By Kent Larsen

LDS Preparations for Olympics Included Elder Hales' Trip to Nagano

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- An article in today's Salt Lake Tribune says that Elder Robert Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints got "distinguished guest" accesss, provided by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, to the Nagano Olympic Games in 1998. The designation allowed Elder Hales access to all competition venues, Olympic family seating areas, lounges and transportation. The Tribune claims that this access, along with correspondence it recently obtained from the SLOC, shows that the Church was collaborating with the SLOC in many areas.

However, LDS Church spokesman Mike Otterson, says that the Church's relationship with the SLOC is merely "responsive." "The church's relationship with SLOC is characterized as responsive because that's precisely what it is. The church's policy is to respond, not to initiate." But the Tribune says Otterson admitted that the idea to send church observers to Nagano was the church's "initiative." He described the trip as "helpful."

According to the Tribune, Elder Hales and four LDS public affairs officials, including Otterson, traveled to Nagano, Japan to view that city's operations during the last Winter Olympics. Elder Hales traveled to the games along with then-SLOC President Frank Joklik, SLOC board Chairman Robert Garff and Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt. These arrangements allowed Hales to discuss arrangements for the games with his traveling companions.

A letter sent by Otterson to the SLOC before the trip outlined seven areas that the Church wanted to see. The letter, sent to Varena Rasmussen, then SLOC's international director of client services, said that the Church officials wanted to see "The volunteer program -- anything to do with the logistics and management of the 36,000 volunteers. The broadcast center and main media center -- how it operates. Media housing. Translation services. Hosting program. Transportation arrangements for media and VIPs. Non-credentialed media." The Church had either already been asked or expected to be involved or affected by each of these areas.

Otterson says the Church sent officials to Nagano to learn. "[We] were there for the same reason hundreds of other Utahns visited Nagano: to learn. In this case, it was to learn what [we] could about how the Olympics might impact their church responsibilities in 2002." The arrangements were made by the SLOC, but the Church reimbursed the committee for the expenses of its representatives.

Contacted by the Tribune, Frank Joklik said that the Church didn't get preferential treatment compared to other religions, and that Elder Hales wasn't there because of religion. Instead, Joklik says Elder Hales was there because of his business experience and the resources he could provide through the Church, "There were these business considerations. This media housing was a big thing. Translation and how to get to the Winter Sports Park, where to put the medals plaza, these were all things that were being discussed at the time," Joklik said. "But there wasn't any quid pro quo. Bob Hales has a tremendous business background. I really listened to what he had to say. It didn't have anything to do with his church affiliation."


SLOC Gave Special AccessTo LDS Official at '98 Games
Salt Lake Tribune 8May01 S1
By Linda Fantin: Salt Lake Tribune


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