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Winter Olympics for Anchorage Is an Advertising Man's Dream

March 31, 1986|EARL GUSTKEY | Times Staff Writer

ANCHORAGE — On Feb. 7, 1984, advertising executive Rick Mystrom was having lunch in downtown Anchorage with two executives, Chris Von Hoff and Steve Busch, from the Alyeska ski resort, 42 miles south of Anchorage. The purpose of the get-together was to discuss possible 1984 advertising projects for the ski resort.

But they wound up talking about a much bigger project.

The Winter Olympics.

"I can't recall who actually brought the subject up," Mystrom said recently. "I do remember thinking Von Hoff seemed to know a little about the Olympics. I remember him saying he'd been to the Munich Summer Games in '72 and to the Grenoble Winter Games in '68. Anyhow, the three of us agreed we couldn't think of any major reasons why Anchorage couldn't put on a successful Winter Olympics, and we had a whole lot of reasons why we could."

The U.S. Olympic Committee felt pretty much the same way, on June 15, 1985, when Anchorage, Lake Placid, N.Y., Reno, and Salt Lake City presented bids to be the U.S. city bidding for the 1992 Winter Olympics. Anchorage won, and presents its bid for the 1992 Olympics at Lausanne, Switzerland, in October.

At the USOC meeting in Indianapolis, Anchorage received 72 votes, Lake Placid 63, Salt Lake City 3, and Reno, 0.

Mystrom believes Anchorage has roughly a 30% chance of landing the 1992 Games. But for 1996, he pegs it at 70%.

"In terms of 1992, the big negative for us as we see it is the fact that by 1988, the Winter Olympics will have been in North America twice (Lake Placid had them in 1980, Calgary, Canada, in 1988) in three Olympiads. Another negative is that the biggest block of International Olympic Committee voters (39) are from Europe.

"All of the focus in our planning from the first weeks on this project was for 1996. But last March, while I was on vacation with my family in Hawaii, I got a call from my office, telling me that the USOC had called to say they wanted us to bid for '92, that they (the USOC) felt we had a chance. So we accelerated everything."

Talk of an Alaskan Olympics isn't new. Since the 1950s, locals have believed Anchorage was a natural for a Winter Olympics. But the subject was dealt with passively, until Mystrom picked up the banner. He arrived in Anchorage in 1972 in a battered van, with a wife and small child, and $700.

He was a Southern Californian, who had attended Rancho Alamitos High School in Garden Grove, then earned a political science degree at the University of Colorado. He'd spent the summer of 1968 on a survey crew in Alaska's wilds.

"I loved Alaska," he said. "I saw it as a young state, where a young guy could grow with the state. In March of 1972, I quit my job--in the City of Garden Grove's Planning Department--cashed everything out and that came to $700. I climbed into our van and got us here in three days.

"I had no job prospects when we arrived, but I got a job selling ads for a TV station here. Later, I started my own agency."

Today, Mystrom, 42, with 42 employees, owns the largest advertising agency in Alaska. He was chairman of Anchorage's assembly (city council) when word broke that Mystrom and some associates were interested in pursuing the Olympics.

Mystrom: "The day after that lunch with Von Hoff and Busch, I had a previously scheduled interview with an Anchorage Times reporter. I started talking about the fact that Anchorage as a city had no real goals, that spending oil money wasn't a goal in itself. I told him the city needed a goal--such as hosting the Winter Olympics."

And speaking of goals, Mystrom admittedly harbors political aspirations, which certainly wouldn't be harmed if he brought a successful Olympics to Alaska. There is talk he may run for mayor of Anchorage in 1987 and he admits interest in running for the governorship or a U.S. Senate seat in 1990.

When Mystrom and assorted Anchorage officials make their presentation for the 1992 Winter Olympics in Lausanne, they will be bidding against Albertville, France; Berchtesgaden, West Germany; Falun, Sweden; Lillehammer, Norway; Sofia, Bulgaria, and Cortina, Italy.

Mystrom: "We think Falun is the favorite right now, but we also think they've peaked, that they have no momentum now. And I know they do not have enough votes right now to get the Games. We see ourselves and Albertville in second place and we think we have lots of momentum."

He said the Anchorage presentation in Lausanne would be similar to the slick presentation given at Indianapolis in winning the U.S. bid. It was a presentation with four themes, emphasizing Anchorage's qualifications with heavy emphasis on its favorable television position, the "uniqueness, magnetism and mystique" of Alaska and "world peace and understanding through sports."

And even though Mystrom and other Anchorage Olympic officials believe their chances for 1996 are far better than they are for '92, an intense lobbying campaign is under way for '92.

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