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
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
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