Olympic rodeo causing a ruckus

Ceremonial event draws protests from animal rights activists

February 2, 2002


SALT LAKE CITY – To give visitors to the Winter Olympics a taste of the Wild West it seemed a good idea to organize a rodeo in Salt Lake City.


But for Mitt Romney, the head of Salt Lake's organizing committee (SLOC), it was the biggest mistake he has made.

Romney has been forced to play the diplomat between animal rights activists demanding the event should be called off and a rodeo company determined to give fans a true taste of Americana.

"I did not realize how much controversy it would create and how big a hornets' nest I had stepped into," Romney told Reuters on Saturday.

The Olympic Arts Festival, running alongside the Games from February 8 to 24, has about 60 events from an international ice carving competition to an exhibition on Utah's Jewish community.

The Olympic Command Performance Rodeo is running for three days and will include bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing and bull riding.

"It's an important part of the western experience," said Ray Grant, director of Arts and Culture for SLOC.

"It's important to Utahns, it's been part of western culture, even though its somewhat controversial and so it seemed to fit naturally."

Somewhat controversial is understating the level of upset among local animal rights groups.

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