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Vote on whether to recommend another Olympic bid postponed

Olympic Exploratory Committee taking time to review new details on costs

FILE - Aerial view Utah Olympic Park, site of Olympic 2002 ski jumping, bobsled, Nordic combined, luge skeleton.
FILE - Aerial view Utah Olympic Park, site of Olympic 2002 ski jumping, bobsled, Nordic combined, luge skeleton.
Tom Smart, Deseret News

tSALT LAKE CITY — A vote on whether to recommend Salt Lake seek another Winter Games was postponed Monday to give the Olympic Exploratory Committee time to review new details, including how it could cost less to host than in 2002.

"I think it's very positive. But people need to take time to digest it. There's a lot of meat in here and a lot of numbers," Fraser Bullock, a co-chairman of the committee, told reporters after what was supposed to be the last meeting of the group.

Bullock said a report that's more than 65 pages long is already drafted and will be circulated before Feb. 1 to the business leaders, elected officials and Olympic and Paralympic athletes on the committee before another meeting is held.

"We want to make sure everybody understands this completely, top to bottom, to take this step forward. I think once they digest it and understand it, the momentum will be very positive," Bullock said. "But we want to be very thorough."

A vote could come at the still unscheduled meeting, he said, if members are ready. A final decision about a bid is up to Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and state leaders who would need to financially back the city.

Bullock led an upbeat discussion about the highlights of the report, including that the price tag for hosting another Olympics, likely in 2030, would be just under $1.3 billion in 2018 dollars, less than than the $1.4 billion spent in 2002.

The biggest risk for another Winter Games is that Los Angeles, host of the 2028 Summer Games, has domestic sponsorships locked up through the end of that year, making a bid for the 2026 Winter Games by any U.S. city difficult.

A budget analysis presented Monday anticipated more than $436 million in 2002 expenses could be cut, largely because the needed Olympic venues are already in place.

Also, a new Salt Lake bid would look to bring in money from Utah companies and donors rather than count on domestic partnership deals. That would mean less money than in 2002 in that category, but enough to ensure a $63 million surplus.

The U.S. Olympic Committee has not ruled out bidding for the 2026 Winter Games, but will have to make a decision by March 31, Bullock said. He said Sion, Switzerland, Stockholm, Calgary, and Sapporo, Japan, have all expressed interest.

Salt Lake has competition within the United States for another Winter Games, from Denver and the Reno-Tahoe area. Biskupski asked what Salt Lake should be doing to be the USOC's choice and "move in solidarity as a country."

The USOC is "being extra-cautious as they should be," Bullock said. "The best thing we can do is come out with this report and say, yes we are going to move ahead, if that is the decision....USOC, you can rely on us. We're ready to go."

That message, along with details from the report, will be delivered firsthand to members of the USOC by Bullock and other committee members traveling to the 2018 Winter Games that begin Feb. 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

He said Denver and Reno-Tahoe will have a difficult time coming up with a budget that allows for construction of new Olympic facilities, given the expected drop in domestic sponsorships.

Bullock said one of the weaknesses some see in a Salt Lake bid is that the Olympics have been here already. The vision outlined for another Winter Games is that it would be "reinvented" rather than repeating 2002.

Just what that would look like has yet to be determined. Another perception problem for Utah noted in the report summary is the 2002 bid scandal involving gifts, cash and other incentives to members of the International Olympic Committee.

A case made for another Olympics in Utah included the state's efforts to maintain the 2002 venues, used by more than a million people annually, and continuing to host national and international competitions, including 165 in winter sports.

"I think we've done more with the Games than anyone else. Let’s do it again because we’ve got more that we can do here," said Dave Layton, president and CEO of Layton Construction Co.

Olympian Noelle Pikus-Pace said she only knew about skeleton because of the bobsled, luge and skeleton track built in anticipation of 2002. A track and field athlete at Utah Valley University, she decided to take up the sliding sport in 1999.

"This is why I'm here," the silver medalist in the 2014 Winter Games and a committee member said. "There's no way I would have had the opportunities I have had. It opened so many doors for me."

Natalie Gochnour, associate dean in the David Eccles School of Business and director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, estimated there are more than 825,000 Utahns who never experienced the first Olympics here in 2002.

Gochnour also said the economic impact of another Olympics would hit $6.3 billion.