SLOC Offered Deal By Animal Activists

Thursday, January 3, 2002

The Salt Lake Tribune


Animal rights activists are offering Olympic organizers a deal: They promise not to picket the 2002 Winter Games if the Salt Lake Organizing Committee drops its sponsorship of a rodeo planned to showcase culture and lifestyle of the American West.

SLOC President Mitt Romney and Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson will sit down today with representatives of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition to discuss the deal.

"If there is no connection between the Olympics and the rodeo, there would be no reason for us to protest at the Games," said Steve Hindi, spokesman for the Chicago-based SHARK – Showing Animals Respect and Kindness.

Hindi spoke Wednesday at a news conference before embarking on a cross country trip to follow the Olympic torch relay in a "Tiger Truck," the group's high-tech propaganda-mobile featuring television monitors showing videotaped acts of animal cruelty.

Hindi said animal activists are stepping up their plans to protest at the rodeo in the event that SLOC does not cut ties with the event. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals already has a billboard near the 500 South entrance to Interstate 15 that reads "Don't Shame the Games. Buck the Olympic rodeo."

"The second wave will be much more intense, we'll have protesters coming to Utah from across the country and beyond," Hindi said.

SLOC spokeswoman Caroline Shaw said Wednesday that SLOC has engaged in a dialogue with the activists but that "no decisions have been made."

However, today's tete-a-tete between organizers and protesters rankles Davis County officials who have heard little from SLOC in recent weeks.

"SLOC isn't talking to us," said Barry Burton, Davis County's associate director of community and economic development. "I can only hope Mr. Romney will take into consideration the silent majority rather than bending to the vocal few."

Davis County officials lobbied hard for the rodeo to be part of the Olympics, investing in additional outdoor lighting and constructing shelters over the animal holding pens at the Davis County Fairgrounds.

"We've spent over three years and a great deal of effort to make this happen and we'll be terribly disappointed if they pull out now," Burton said. "It's the only Olympic event in Davis County and it's all that's keeping us from being just a big parking lot between Ogden and Salt Lake during the Games."

SLOC contracted with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association to stage the rodeo as part of the Cultural Olympiad, an arts and entertainment extravaganza designed to give world visitors a taste of local culture.

The event, scheduled for Feb. 9, 10 and 11, is billed as a North American Challenge with the top cowboys from the United States competing against those from Canada. A similar rodeo was held in 1988 at the Calgary Olympics and was one of the most popular events at those Games.

PRCA officials have heard rumors of SLOC cutting ties with the rodeo but are proceeding as planned.

"It would be speculating out loud if we were to comment on this without hearing from SLOC," said PRCA commissioner Steve Hatchell. "They came to us and asked us to put together a rodeo as part of the celebration of the West. It seemed like a natural to us. Utah is part of the West with a great rodeo tradition."

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