Rodeo Still On Agenda For Games
January 4, 2002
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney said Thursday he intends to honor a contract to state a championship rodeo as part of the cultural events of the 2002 Winter Games.
So animal-rights activists say they are stepping up plans to protest the event at all Olympic competition sites as well as the Legacy Center in Farmington, where the rodeo will be held Feb. 9-11.
Romney emerged from a meeting with animal-rights activists at Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson's office acknowledging that the protesters would be disappointed with the outcome of the negotiations.
"We are committed to have as safe a rodeo as possible. We've received a number of suggestions from the members of the animal-rights community to ensure that this is as safe a rodeo as possible," Romney said. "Unfortunately, members of those groups would like us not to have a rodeo, but we have a contractual agreement with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association which we intend to honor, and we are working hard to make this as safe a rodeo for cowboys and animals as is humanly possible.
That may mean stepping up security to deal with extra protests, animal-rights activists said.
"This was an opportunity for them to completely remove the largest protest organization in the world," said Steve Hindi of the Chicago-based animal-rights group SHARK – Showing Animals Respect and Kindness.
Other demonstrations are planned at the headquarters of the international Olympic Committee in Switzerland and the U.S. Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs.
"We are having uniforms designed to wear at the Games, to the grocery store and anywhere else people will see us," said Colleen Gardner of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition.
Davis County officials say they are prepared for the onslaught. Officials recently designated a protest area in a parking lot between the Davis County Juvenile Corrections Facility and the Davis County Fairgrounds, where the rodeo will be held.
"It's right at the entrance of the fairgrounds, and everyone who attends the rodeo will see them," said Barry Burton, associate director of community and economic development for Davis County.
County officials have been pushing for the rodeo for more than three years, hoping to capitalize on the Olympic traffic as visitors make their way between Salt Lake City and Ogden to attend Olympic competitions.
State Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, wrote to Romney on Thursday urging him not to give in to pressure from protesters.
"We cannot allow terrorist groups such as SHARK and PETA to frighten us with their threats," Ray wrote.
Activists took umbrage at the suggestion that the protests would turn violent.
"We are not about violence. We abhor violence and should we see or have an inkling of violent acts about to be committed, we will be the first ones to go to the police," Hindi said.
Hindi described Thursday's meeting as a "frank discussion, but still a rehash of the things we've discussed before."
Among concessions the activists had hoped for was the cancellation of calf roping and the prohibition of spurs, electric prods and bucking straps to make the animals perform.
Romney simply reiterated his "safe a rodeo as possible" comment when asked if calf roping would be deleted from the competition.
"We are working on a whole series of items that we think can improve the safety of the rodeos, and we are going to do our best in all of those," he said.
While the meeting was held in the mayor's office, Anderson went out the opposite door when the conference was over and could not be reached for comment later Thursday. Activists were quick to praise him for taking a public stand against the rodeo in earlier statements.
"This isn't going to be a unifying event in this community," Hindi said. "It's a tremendous missed opportunity for them not to sever ties [to the rodeo]."