Scandals, performance-enhancing drugs and professional athletes may be changing the face of the Olympics, but Wayne Osness is convinced the Olympic spirit will prevail.
"People generally have a warm spot in their heart for Olympic games and Olympic athletes," he said.
Osness, interim chair of health, sport and exercise science at Kansas University, was a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee's executive board from 1984 to 1992. During his tenure, the committee selected Salt Lake City as the site for the 2002 winter games, which begin Friday.
Osness said he thought the controversy surrounding this year's games which included International Olympic Committee members who accepted bribes could hurt people's opinions of the Olympics. But he wasn't surprised to hear of the bribes.
"Many of (the IOC members) are just political figures from their countries and not necessarily involved in sports," he said. "They come from places where doing nice things for decision-makers is the norm, not the exception to the norm. It's tough to tell different people with different cultures how to conduct their lives."
He said new regulations in place should prevent such incidents in the future.
Osness said more drug screening was the best answer to eliminating illegal drugs, but Olympic officials should involve athletes more in the screening process.
"We need to reduce that anxiety between the athletes and the enforcers," he said. "Basically, every athlete I've talked to supports the concept of a level playing field."
Osness said allowing professional athletes to compete in some events also has soured some people's opinions of the Olympics. But since that trend has begun, he said there seemed little that could be done about it.
Osness said he's confident the extra security at this year's games will prevent any terrorist attacks.
"Anybody who wanted to make a splash could use the games or the Super Bowl to do it," he said. "I don't expect anything to happen. Terrorist activities usually happen when people don't expect."
Despite the concentration on scandals and terrorism, Osness said he's confident the focus will be on the sports and the Olympic tradition when the games begin.
"It's awfully difficult not to be proud to be an American and to be proud of our Olympic athletes when they walk in that stadium," he said. "And this year more so than ever."