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Business Networking Takes Place at Olympics

Business executives from around the world are among the thousands of visitors drawn to the Olympic games. That makes the Olympics an ideal site for the kind of unofficial contacts and networking that often results in new business opportunities and investment.

Bob Fuehr, who is in charge of trade and investment for the state of Utah, says entertaining business executives is a major activity during the Olympics, with the expectation that it will help generate thousands of new jobs.

Mr. Fuehr says, "Really, we're socializing with the intent of developing relationships for building business, and attracting companies to Utah. You know, we have a great opportunity here for people to see Utah, possibly for the first time. And we hope that they like what they see, that they see the beauty of our scenery, of our mountains, but also see the industrious, the well-educated, the ambitious people that we have here."

There will be scores of parties and receptions during the period of the games, giving Mr. Fuehr a chance to repeatedly deliver Utah's message. "We have an expanding workforce," he continued. They're very tech-savvy. They're well educated. Companies find they're very motivated, when they come here. So really, their cost of operation actually goes down."

Athens will be the site of the Olympics in 2004 and Greek official Costas Bakouris, of the Hellenic Center for Investment, is here in Salt Lake City, to observe what his counterparts in Utah are doing.

Mr. Bakouris told reporters the 2004 Games will be a chance to promote Greece as a telecommunications center and gateway for trade between Europe, the Balkans and Black Sea region. "The Olympic games," he said, "will give Greece a tremendous opportunity of exposure and visibility, and it will be what I will call a once-in-a-lifetime window of opportunity."

Mr. Bakouris hopes the Olympics attract 25,000 international business people to Athens.

David Faulks had a similar job at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The former Australian official is now a consultant to the state of Utah.

He says regardless of where the Olympics are held, the hosts have similar business goals. "One is 'branding,' how to communicate the key messages you want to communicate under the spotlight of the Olympics. In addition to that, there are major networking opportunities for local business people, or business people in this case from the United States with people from around the world and with each other. The Olympics is unique in terms of the attention that it brings and in terms of the people that it attracts," he says.

In Australia, Mr. Faulks had to convince visitors his country offers more than kangaroos and beaches. He says the effort was successful. "In addition to all the infrastructure development," he said, "we managed to build $570 million in new trade and investment, just through the specific business development program we had. That was in a fairly small economy, a lot smaller, of course, than the U.S.

Utah officials hope the business connections made at the winter Olympics will result in $1 billion in investment in their state, as well as 10,000 high-tech jobs.