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Utah and the UK's Games

Published July 28, 2012 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It's hard to believe that more than 10 years have passed since Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002. Everyone remembers them well for being the first Games after the tragic attacks of Sept. 11; for the unique western- and Native American-flavored pageantry of the opening ceremony; and, in Britain, as the year when our athletes notched up one of their highest Winter Olympic medal counts — with two.

Hopefully, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London will be a bit more successful for Team Great Britain. After all, while our athletes aren't so used to snow and ice, as an island nation, rowing and sailing, for example, are in our blood.

No matter how our national teams do in competition, however, Utah will play a big part in the Games which opened in spectacular fashion on Friday.

The gold, silver and bronze medals that will hang around the necks of Olympic champions in 2012 literally come from the ground beneath Utahns' feet: the Bingham Canyon Mine, near Salt Lake City, is providing 99 per cent of that very precious metal.

It's a perfect illustration of the economic ties between Utah and the UK. British companies Rio Tinto and Johnson Matthey are two of the leading mining and refining companies in the state, and employ many of the 6,600 Utahns who work for British firms. The UK is the number one export destination for Utah companies, and the value of those exports is the second-highest among the 50 states — more than $6 billion in 2011.

The UK is also looking forward to another Utah export — a sustainable, prosperous Olympic legacy. Since Salt Lake City hosted the Games, Utah's local economy has seen a $1 billion boost, in large part thanks to the seven world championships and hundreds of other events that have taken place in the city's former Olympic venues. The tourism industry in Utah was responsible for 110,000 jobs in 2010 alone, on top of the 35,000 jobs created during the buildup to 2002.

The London Games have been planned to have a similar impact on the British economy. We expect the Olympic legacy to live on most strongly in East London where the Olympic Park is located, traditionally one of London's most economically deprived areas. We've revolutionized transit options, created hundreds of acres of new wetlands and will convert the Athletes' Village into thousands of new, sustainable homes and spaces for entrepreneurial startups.

The investments in infrastructure and community development have already attracted businesses looking for a new place to expand and should provide stable jobs well into the future.

But there are nationwide legacy elements, too. With the Paralympic Games set to begin just after the conclusion of the Olympics, there are 1,000 more facilities for disabled sport around the UK that will be made available and accessible for community use.

The construction contracts have kept tens of thousands of people in work during difficult economic times. And a laser focus on sustainability-reclaiming 97 percent of the demolition materials, cleaning hundreds of thousands of tons of soil and building the top ring of the Olympic Stadium from reused gas pipelines, for instance, have these Games on track to be the greenest ever.

For the next two weeks of competition, we'll be keeping a close eye on another Utah-to-UK export: the four Utahans who will compete in London with Team USA. On behalf of the United Kingdom, I wish them — and all the men and women who have added to our prosperity at home and abroad — the very best of luck.

Let the Games begin!

Dame Barbara Hay is the British Consul-General in Los Angeles.