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Olympic dream lives in Tahoe

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Two-time Olympic skier Bode Miller plays in the American Century Championship golf tournament last week.
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Tourism officials and athletes in town for the American Century Championship last week agreed it may take as much hard work and elbow grease to host the Olympics at Lake Tahoe as training demands for them – but the venue certainly would provide a lovely backdrop.

“Obviously, it would take development (of venues) the way the Games are,” said World Cup Champion Bode Miller, whose no-holds-barred Alpine skiing scored him two silver medals in the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. He also competed in the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan.

“It’s tough to say for an athlete who grew up with the Olympic dream. The Games have changed a lot. It’s a lot about the money now,” Miller said, while at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

Olympic soccer gold medalist Brandi Chastain, who was also on the course last week, was disillusioned with baseball and softball being cut from the 2012 Games to be hosted by London.

After hearing the news, Chastain immediately thought of her friend, Lisa Fernandez. The Olympic softball gold medal-wielding pitcher has previously played at the golf tournament.

“It’s devastating. I sent Lisa a note. It’s very unfortunate,” Chastain said, shaking her head.

Still, the Olympic dream remains alive in Chastain. She likes the idea of them coming to Tahoe.

“In terms of facilities, you wouldn’t find a prettier place,” she said.

The feeling among members of the Reno/Tahoe organizing committee is that since New York failed to be selected for 2012, the region’s chances have improved for 2014 or 2018 for seizing the opportunity. Heavenly Mountain Resort Chief Operating Officer Blaise Carrig serves on the committee.

“I think the U.S. is in a good position for any winter or summer Olympics,” committee Chairman Jim Vanden Heuval said. “And our strategic plan hasn’t changed. We’re still aiming for Reno, South Lake Tahoe and Truckee.”

South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Duane Wallace echoed the same sentiment.

And the local men liked the idea of the on-the-street improvements that go along with the windfall of international attention.

“I think Ski Utah would say the Olympics have more than paid for itself in infrastructure (improvements),” Carrig said.

Aside from the permanent assets, Bruce Bommarito, the executive director of the Nevada Commission on Tourism, wants the exposure to the area that, like the American Century Championship, goes way beyond the event’s two weeks of visitation.

“We’re in much better shape now. We just had to wait for New York to move forward,” Bommarito said, while driving an Edgewood golf cart. He serves on the organizing committee.

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