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'We did it once; we can certainly do it twice': Another Olympic bid for Salt Lake recommended

SALT LAKE CITY — As expected, the state’s Olympic Exploratory Committee on Wednesday unanimously endorsed a hefty report recommending Salt Lake City go after another Winter Games.

Gov. Gary Herbert, who ceremonially signed a resolution passed by the Legislature declaring the state “ready, willing and able” during the exploratory committee meeting, said the report affirms what Utahns already know.

“We are in a great, tremendous position to host the Winter Olympics again. It’s something that is kind of intuitive to us” after the success of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, the governor said. “We did it once; we can certainly do it twice.”

The final decision about what would likely be a bid for the 2030 Winter Games must be made by the governor and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski. When that happens is now up to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Biskupski called the report "what we needed to get off the ground and pursue another extraordinary experience for Salt Lake City," adding that she's "very excited and confident" about the findings.

The USOC has until March 31 to determine if an American city will compete for the 2026 Winter Games, but backers of another Utah bid want to be in the mix because the 2026 and 2030 Winter Games could be awarded at the same time.

That's what the IOC did last year with the next two Summer Games, giving 2024 to Paris and 2028 to Los Angeles. Having an upcoming Olympics in the U.S. makes selling sponsorships for 2026 financially challenging for another American city.

But Fraser Bullock, a co-chairman of the exploratory committee served as the chief operating officer of the 2002 Winter Games, said Salt Lake could make the numbers work in 2026 if necessary, even through 2030 is the preference.

"We'd just like to have two shots at it," Bullock said.

The report put the price tag for another Winter Games at just over $1.35 billion, less than the 2002 Olympics cost because Utah already has built and continues to maintain the bobsled, skeleton and luge track, ski jumps and other costly sports facilities.

The budget even anticipates a $63 million profit, money that could be used to endow the effort to promote winter sports training and competitions in Utah that started with the 2002 Games.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, also an exploratory committee co-chairman, said as a CPA he sees the budget numbers as "exciting. I trust these numbers because it's experience that put them together."

Niederhauser also reiterated the committment already made by legislative leaders to spend some $40 million on the state's Olympic facilities over the next decade to protect what he called Utah's brand as a winter sports capital.

The mayor said she will discuss the report with the Salt Lake City Council, which will also be distributed to the Legislature, but any decision will have to wait for a determination by the USOC.

Competing for another Olympics would initially cost $600,000, "relatively modest in view of the tremendous opportunity to host again," according to the report, which stated private funding would be sought. The total cost of bidding is $10 million.

Salt Lake City faces competition from two other U.S. cities: Denver and the Reno-Tahoe area. Four cities have already officially let the IOC know they're interested in 2026 — Calgary, Canada; Sion, Switzerland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Sapporo, Japan.

Bullock, who has been an adviser to the IOC on a number of Olympic issues, said he is headed to the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics, Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the IOC has been meeting.

"We need to get over there and find out what the real process will be," Bullock said. "I think it puts us behind just because the USOC hasn't made a choice yet and is not clear on that."

Still, he said, there are issues with the cities already circulating as potential bidders, warning they could disappear from contention as happened with the 2022 Winter Games, when the IOC ended up with only one real choice, Beijing.

Utah, which first announced its intentions to pursue another Olympics in 2012, had tried and failed then to get the USOC to bid for 2022. Bullock said Salt Lake City would have been an obvious pick over Beijing, which had just hosted Summer Games.

"We missed that opportunity," he said. "We don't want to see that again."

Another exploratory committee co-chairman, Jeff Robbins, head of the Utah Sports Commission, said even if the USOC doesn't allow a 2026 bid, the effort to bring the Olympics back to Utah won't stop.

"We hope that something happens for 2026. But if it doesn't, make no mistake, we're going to continue to move forward," Robbins said.