Romney's Support For Rodeo Getting Hazy

Sunday, December 30, 2001

The Salt Lake Tribune

By Mike Gorrell

There are 40 days until the 2002 Winter Olympics begin in Salt Lake City.

It may take another week or so for Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney to decide what to do with that pesky rodeo issue.

But his spokeswoman, Caroline Shaw, hinted Friday that Romney's support for the Feb. 9-11 rodeo at the Davis County Legacy Center may be wilting. "At this point he is committed to having a safe rodeo. But that could change in a week or 10 days. I can't tell," she said cryptically.

Romney has informed the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, which is running the competition between the best American and Canadian cowboys, that he shares the concerns of animal-rights activists about calf roping. "Mitt is relatively insistent that calf roping not be one of the many events," Shaw said.

But she emphasized that the matter is "still under discussion," lauding the Cowboys Association for its receptiveness to hearing Romney's concerns and to agreeing to SLOC's other safety-related requests – to have an independent veterinarian on site and to videotape the whole event.

SLOC's options are to cancel the rodeo altogether, which would be costly based on Romney's earlier assertion that ticket sales have been higher than for other Cultural Olympiad events; stick with the original plan; or to cut official ties with the rodeo, which would to little to disrupt the event but would preclude the venue from being adorned with Olympic decorations.

The last option could spare SLOC some Games-time protests from animal-rights activists, who have appeared along the torch-relay route with signs saying things such as "Don't Shame the Games" and "Buck the Rodeo."

Their presence on the torch run ticked off Shaw. "When someone is running who has overcome cancer or is honoring a spouse who died on Sept. 11 … we think it's inappropriate for animal-rights activists to take away from their special moment of carrying the torch."

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