SALT LAKE CITY — There seems to be no question members of the state's Olympic Exploratory Committee are going to recommend bidding for another Winter Games at their final meeting Wednesday.
Their decision follows a resolution passed by the Legislature on Tuesday and signed by Gov. Gary Herbert declaring the state "ready, willing and able" to host another Olympics after the success of the 2002 Winter Games.
But a new bid could hit a roadblock pretty quickly.
The U.S. Olympic Committee has yet to announce whether an American city will compete for the 2026 Winter Games despite a March 31 declaration deadline set by the International Olympic Committee.
"We want to be in the ballgame completely. If there's a possibility, we want to be there," said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, co-chairman of the exploratory committee. "But it will be, at the end of the day, up to the USOC."
USOC spokesman Mark Jones said in a statement nothing has been decided yet.
"We want to bring the Winter Games back to the USA, whether that's 2026, 2030 or beyond but our board has made no final determination regarding the 2026 process," Jones said.
Complicating the situation is that the IOC recently awarded two Summer Games at the same time, 2024 to Paris and 2028 to Los Angeles. The California city has a lock on domestic sponsorships through 2028, making a U.S. bid for 2026 tough.
While the USOC has shown little interest in bidding for 2026, there is the possibility there could be another dual award for when a host for 2026 is chosen. If Salt Lake City or another U.S. city isn't in the mix, they wouldn't be considered.
"If there is going to be a dual award, then we’ll want to be at the table," Niederhauser said. The USOC is reticent, he said, "because they're committed completely to L.A. and should be. We would want the same."
At an IOC meeting Tuesday in Pyeongchang, South Korea, four cities — Sapporo, Japan; Calgary, Canada; Stockholm, Sweden; and Sion, Switzerland — formally entered into the initial phase of bidding for 2026.
"It looks very much like those are the four cities they're looking at for 2026," Ed Hula, publisher of the Atlanta-based Around the Rings online Olympic news source, told the Deseret News from Pyeongchang, host of the 2018 Winter Games.
While there's still time for the U.S. to put in a bid, Hula said he's not sure what the USOC is planning on doing.
"They've kind of taken a back seat on this right now," he said.
But Hula said some members of the IOC are suggesting while there could be a dual award for the Winter Games, it isn't set in stone.
Christophe Dubi, the IOC's Olympic Games executive director, said four other cities have also expressed interest in 2026: Graz, Austria; and three in the United States, according to the Japan Times.
The other two U.S. contenders looking to host an upcoming Winter Games are Denver and the Reno-Tahoe area. Salt Lake City is counting on experience as well as the backing of the state to stay ahead of the competition.
The report being presented to the governor and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski on Wednesday is expected to show Salt Lake City could put on the Olympics again for just under $1.3 billion, less than the $1.4 billion spent in 2002.
Excerpts from the report released at last month's exploratory committee meeting also projects a $63 million surplus from a future Olympics and promises an event that will seem "reinvented" rather than a repeat of 2002.
Fraser Bullock, chief operating officer of the 2002 Games and a co-chairman of the Utah exploratory committee, said the final report will be more than 130 pages long, and while there won't be any surprises, it will be "very comprehensive."
The exploratory committee had been expected to vote on whether to recommend another Olympic bid at its last meeting. Instead, the decision was made to wait for the report to be finalized and circulated.
"I would be very surprised if anyone was opposed. Everyone sees the opportunity and that it can be a profitable Games is important," said Bullock, who will be in Pyeongchang later this month to meet with Olympic officials about another bid.
"The USOC basically has three alternatives" — taking a pass on bidding for 2026, selecting a city to bid on behalf of the United States or even advancing all three cities competing, he said.
Niederhauser said there's already some differences emerging among supporters of another Olympic bid for Utah over whether to continue as a committee if an American city isn't advanced for the next Winter Games to be awarded by the IOC.
That means "we could drop back into a posture of being ready, willing and able like we’ve been," the Senate president said, since the last time the state tried to launch an Olympic bid back in 2012.