SBJ/February 18 - 24, 2002/Salt Lake 2002

USOC caters to potential big donors

The Olympic Winter Games experience typically means large-scale logistics, lines at security checkpoints and big crowds. But there is an alternative.

In return for $100,000 or more, the U.S. Olympic Committee is seeing to it that certain people can avoid some of the frenzy in and around Salt Lake City this month. In conjunction with the Games, the USOC launched an aggressive private donor program, both to reward existing donors and to solicit similar contributions from prospective donors. The aim is to generate millions of dollars of additional support for USOC athlete programs.

"We are talking to a number of people about significant six- and seven-figure gifts," said Sean Pieri, acting managing director of development for the USOC.

As a "thank you" to those who've given, or as an enticement to those who are thinking about it, the USOC is rolling out exclusive access and unique experiences. Last Friday evening, the USOC hosted 100 guests during an invitation-only party at the Park City resort home of Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg.

As the Games began Feb. 9, donors shared an evening with members of the 1960 and 1980 gold-medal U.S. Olympic hockey teams in a hospitality lodge at Red Butte Gardens. This Saturday, another select group will attend a reception at the same location to spend time conversing with American figure-skating gold medalists such as Kristi Yamaguchi, who won her title at the 1992 Games in France.

Between 40 and 50 private donor events are scheduled, and the USOC will call upon about 40 past or current Olympians to make paid visits with donors or donor candidates.

Behind-the-scenes access is another component. When ski jumping competition was postponed by high winds up in Park City on Opening Day, a donor attending the event as a USOC guest instead was given a tour of the Utah Olympic Park venues that would not have been permitted for a regular ticket holder, Pieri said.

The Katzenberg party and many of the smaller events featured appearances by winter and summer Olympic medalists.

The USOC planned to add a sprinkling of 2002 Olympians to the entertainment mix, after these athletes have finished competing at the Salt Lake Games.

Most of the prospective donors being courted by the USOC, Pieri said, are in Utah for the Games because of previous plans to see the Olympics with family and friends, but other prospects will travel to Salt Lake specifically for the USOC-created donor "experience."

Steve Woodward is a writer in Chicago.

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Olympics, Salt Lake 2002

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