Gov. Spencer Cox said the choice of an Olympic speedskater to take over the committee bidding to bring the Winter Games back to Utah underscores what the state has to offer the world in the race to host again in 2030 or 2034.

Catherine Raney Norman, who competed in four Olympics including the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, is the new chairwoman of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games. She replaces retired Rocky Mountain Power CEO Cindy Crane, who will serve on the bid group’s new executive committee.

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“This really is about celebrating the athletes. It’s not about us, not about our egos, not about governors or mayors or anybody else,” Cox said at his first meeting of the committee, held Thursday at the Utah Olympic Oval event center in Kearns.

‘Plant those seeds for next generation’

The governor credited the ability of Utahns to work together for maintaining the oval and other 2002 Winter Games venues that continue to be used for training and competition by athletes from around the world, even as Olympic venues elsewhere have been shuttered.

“It’s expensive. It’s hard. It takes a significant amount of collaboration to make these things work and that’s the special thing we have in Utah. It’s the thing we can never afford to lose. If we lose that, we’re just like everyone else,” Cox said.

Catherine Raney Norman, chairwoman of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, speaks as Gov. Spencer Cox walks by during a meeting of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games at the Element Event Center near the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns on Thursday June 10, 2021. | Annie Barker, Deseret News

Utahns have the ability to come together and “plant those seeds for the next generation, and that’s what we’re doing here today,” he said, despite the country’s great political division. “This is what we need to show the world. We need to show the world that there’s a better way, there’s a different way.”

Hosting another Winter Games would provide that opportunity, he said, calling the Olympics “the one time where we see each other as human beings, in the power of competition. And Utah is the one place where we know we can put aside our differences and do better, and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

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In addition to the new role for Raney Norman, who had been co-chair of the bid group’s athletes advisory committee, Steve Starks, Larry H. Miller Group of Companies CEO, was named vice chair as well as an unpaid Olympic adviser to Cox, who took office at the start of the year.

New governor makes some changes

“We have a new governor who is energized about the potential of having the Olympics return,” Starks told the Deseret News, adding that with the “changes to political leadership, the evaluation of where things stand and how to be as competitive as we can moving forward, these changes seem to be a natural move.”

The changes also include the addition of 10 Olympic and Paralympic athletes to the committee, including alpine ski racers Lindsey Vonn and Ted Ligety, speedskater Apolo Ohno, figure skater and Salt Lake City native Nathan Chen and Paralympic alpine skier Monte Meier.

Sparks said Cox was a “catalyst to be able to reassess” the bid effort, as the newest honorary leader of the committee, joining Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Utah Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, and Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville.

Now, the extra emphasis on athlete involvement “positions us in a very competitive way,” Starks said.

Salt Lake City was selected more than two years ago to bid for a future Winter Games by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, but whether that’s for 2030 or 2034 still has not been decided. Los Angeles is hosting the 2028 Summer Games, raising questions about sharing sponsorship revenues with another American city in 2030.

Then-Salt Lake City Council Chairwoman Erin Mendenhall, Fraser Bullock, chief operating officer of the 2002 Winter Games, Jeff Robbins, president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission, then-Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, then-Gov. Gary Herbert, Olympic speedskater Catherine Rainey Norman and then-Salt Lake County Councilman Jim Bradley raise their arms in celebration at the City-County Building after the U.S. Olympic Committee selected Salt Lake City to bid on behalf of the United States, potentially for the 2030 Winter Games, on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. | Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Susanne Lyons, U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee board chairwoman, told the committee the organization’s focus is the Summer Games set to start next month in Tokyo after being postponed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2022 Winter Games in Beijing follow early next year amid controversy over China’s human rights violations.

Lyons said the Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee that ultimately decides where the Games will go hasn’t specified when that will happen, but is “certainly well aware of our preparedness, our readiness and our readiness to engage in dialog as soon as they are.”

Under a new IOC selection process, detailed talks are held with cities interested in hosting a Games to determine which should advance. Utah’s bidders, already readying the documents required such as venue and hotel agreements, face competition from Sapporo, Japan; Vancouver, Canada; and Barcelona, Spain, at this point.

Fraser Bullock, the bid group’s president and CEO, announced the budget for the bid would be $3.8 million, and that $1.5 million has already been raised, including $250,000 each from the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation and the Utah Sports Commission. Bullock said all of the funding is coming from private sources, not taxpayers.

He told the committee there are pluses and minuses to both 2030 and 2034, but waiting that extra four years to host could be tough.

“It would be nice for those of us who did it before to bring along a lot of the next generation,” Bullock said. “We’d love to do this every 16 to 20 years. This isn’t just about 2030 or ’34. This is perpetuity, a world capital in sport. We want to be on the stage continually. So some of us may be too old to do 2034.”

Raney Norman, who turns 41 later this month, retired from competition after the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Currently a University of Utah Health director of advancement, she has been involved with Utah’s efforts to land another Olympics since 2012.

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“I’m ready for this position because at my core I represent the athletes and the athletes represent the heart of the Olympic and Paralympic movement,” she said at the meeting, defining success, in part, as reaching “all athletes, from recreational to elite” as well as all communities.

“There’s a motto among the athlete alumni community that applies to all of us — once an Olympian, Paralympian, always an Olympian, Paralympian. Never former, never past,” Raney Norman said. “As an Olympic and Paralympic city and state, we, too, are forever tied to this movement.”

Her fellow Olympians welcomed one of their own heading up the bid.

“I think it’s very important,” said Brittany Bowe, an Olympic long-track speedskater who trains at the oval and is expected to be a medal contender in Beijing. “It just goes to show how appreciative us as athletes are to have the Olympics come back here to Salt Lake and how much it would mean to us, our community and the state of Utah.”

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