SALT LAKE CITY — There's a new push for Salt Lake City to seek another Olympics now that Innsbruck, Austria, has pulled out of contention after voters rejected a referendum backing a bid for the 2026 Winter Games.
"I think we all thought (Innsbruck) would be the leading candidate for 2026, but given the referendum, things are very much up in the air," Fraser Bullock, the chief financial officer of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, said Sunday.
Bullock said the referendum, coupled with a decision by the Swiss government last week to postpone financially backing a bid by Sion, "suggests that there are very few candidates, viable candidates for 2026, let alone 2030."
And the U.S. Olympic Committee is finally ready to look at going after a Winter Games again now that Los Angeles has been awarded the 2028 Summer Games, the first American Olympics since Salt Lake.
All that may be adding up to a 2026 bid by Salt Lake City, Bullock said.
“Utah loved hosting the Games and is the best place in the world for Olympic Winter Games. We remain ready, willing and able to host once again," he said, citing the theme of Salt Lake's effort to bid for the 2022 Winter Games, cut short by the USOC's decision to focus on securing a Summer Games.
"With the indications from the USOC that they would like to host (a) Winter Games again, combined with the defeat of the referendum in Innsbruck and the challenges faced in Sion, discussions will be accelerating in terms of next steps for Salt Lake City,” Bullock said.
Besides a possible bid by Salt Lake or another American city, the list of cities considering for the next Winter Games to be awarded by the International Olympic Committee includes Calgary and Stockholm, he said.
Innsbruck is officially out of the running after more than half the voters in the Austrian province of Tyrol opposed hosting another Olympics, leaders of the province announced Sunday.
Last week, the USOC board said it was moving forward with a bid for a Winter Games and said Salt Lake City, Denver and the Reno-Tahoe area had all expressed interest.
Whether that means a bid for the 2026 or the 2030 Winter Games remains to be seen, however. There is concern a 2026 bid could interfere with the L.A. Games.
Mitt Romney, who led the 2002 Games and a decade later was the GOP presidential nominee, told the Deseret News last month that "the first priority has to be supporting the Games in Los Angeles."
Romney said that a bid by Salt Lake "can fit into that priority as best as possible."
Bullock also said "everybody understands" the Los Angeles Games have to take priority.
"That is at the heart of the U.S.'s bidding strategy. Because L.A. has been awarded the Games, we need to do everything collectively in our power to make sure that they are successful and we are very supportive of them," he said.
The question, Bullock said, is whether the United States could host back-to-back Games "in a way that not only does not harm L.A. but could be beneficial to L.A., and that would have to be worked out over the next several months."
The USOC has until March to choose an American candidate city to compete for the 2026 Winter Games, set to be awarded by the IOC in 2019. A complicating factor is what could be a change in the IOC's selection process.
This year, the IOC simultaneously awarded the 2024 Summer Games to Paris and the 2028 Summer Games to Los Angeles, a "historic double allocation" intended to ensure the stability of the Olympics, IOC President Thomas Bach said in September.
While the IOC has yet to determine whether that will happen for the 2026 and 2030 Winter Games, competition has been light in recent years. The next two Winter Games will be held in Asia.
USOC Chairman Larry Probst said after last Friday's board meeting that if the IOC is looking at a dual award for the next two Winter Games, "we'd want to be in that conversation, at the table for that discussion."
Contributing: Associated Press