International Olympic Committee leaders gave a green light Friday to awarding both the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games at the same time and sped up the process for narrowing the field.

IOC President Thomas Bach said he expects the organization’s Future Host Commission to recommend, as soon as the end of this month, which bidders — Salt Lake City; Sapporo, Japan; Vancouver, Canada; Sweden, Switzerland or France — should advance.

“They cannot wait until the end of November and then all of a sudden, come in with a proposal. So there is already considerable work ongoing and they will then forward the results of this work as soon as possible,” Bach told reporters.

There could be multiple recommendations for each Winter Games, he noted.

Bach said the IOC Executive Board intends to name its picks by the end of November, with the final vote of the full membership for the Winter Games hosts coming in July 2024, just before the start of the Summer Games in Paris.

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Salt Lake City bidders, who were looking for a signal from the the IOC meetings being held in India through Monday, had not expected to make a virtual pitch to the Future Host Commission until some time in November.

“This is a very positive step forward that we’ve been hoping for and we look forward to continuing this process over the next several weeks,” Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, said.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said in a social media post the dual award is “(t)he news we’ve been waiting for: Salt Lake City’s chances of bringing the Winter Olympics back to the U.S. in 2034 received a boost today.”

Will there be a rotation of future Winter Games hosts?

The reason for going ahead with a dual award of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games is to give the IOC more time to study new findings on climate change that could lead to a rotation of future Winter Games among a set group of permanent hosts.

Only 10 countries will be able to provide a “reliable climate” for the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games beyond 2040, out of the 15 countries that already have at least 80% of the needed facilities for snow sports, Bach said.

Ten of those 15 countries have either recently hosted a Winter Games or expressed interest in hosting in the future, he said, but did not provide details, saying the study “needs some more context” before it can be made public.

“From these numbers it becomes even clearer that we need to address very quickly this traumatic impact of climate change on winter sport and the Winter Games,” the IOC president said.

Their work “implies deliberations on a rotation system, the composition of the program, the different needs for sport on ice and snow, and many others,” Bach said. “From all of this, you can already see this is a very complex issue and we need some more time.”

Climate change can’t be addressed properly “in the next six months or even in the next 12 months. This is one of the reasons, if not the main reason,” for a double allocation of the next two Winter Games to be awarded “if all conditions are met,” he said.

The IOC gave a “green light” to the Future Host Commission to pursue a dual award, Bach said, adding there will be “further discussion” by the full membership at the IOC session that starts Sunday.

Why recommendations for 2030, 2034 hosts are coming faster

The new deadline for the Future Host Commission to recommend which site — or sites — should host in 2030 and 2034 was calculated based on a final vote coming in Paris next year, Bach said.

“So the question was, what timing do we need,” he said. For the IOC Executive Board, that means choosing by the end of November which bids advance to the next stage of the bid process, known as targeted dialogue, where the host contracts are negotiated.

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Bach said it’s up to the Future Host Commission to decide how to come up with recommendations by the end of October but added that IOC leaders must also “respect the deadlines” to ensure there can be a final ratification vote next year in Paris.

“That means everything must be ready at the very latest, one month before the session starts,” he said. “By then, all the necessary guarantees, the host city contract, everything has to be ready for signature.”

Bach declined to speculate on when the final vote on the 2030 and 2034 hosts would be held if France’s late entry into the race remains a contender. IOC rules do not permit such a vote in countries that are in the running to host an Olympics.

The IOC Executive Board had been expected to choose between Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver last December, but delayed a decision amid issues with support for the Japanese and Canadian bids and launched the climate change study.

Since then, new bids from Sweden, Switzerland and France have entered the race. This week, Sapporo dropped out of the running for 2030, but may still be trying to host as soon as 2034.

Salt Lake City, the site of the 2002 Winter Games, is seeking to host in 2030 or 2034, with a preference for the later date to avoid competing for domestic sponsors with the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

‘Significant step forward’

Utah has been pursuing another Olympics for more than a decade, and without a dual award, the wait could have gone on for several more years. The IOC president, whose term ends in 2025, had at one time ruled out naming 2030 and 2034 hosts at the same time.

Bullock said a dual award is “a very significant step forward” but “the ultimate positive signal would be to be invited into targeted dialogue, of which we are hopeful by the end of this year. It appears the IOC is on track.”

Salt Lake City’s bid team, which includes the governor and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, is ready to meet virtually with the Future Host Commission for what will be a third time, the bid committee leader said.

“We’ll be excited to reconnect with them again,” Bullock said. “They have become very familiar with our bid.”

He said Utah’s proposal for another Olympics “meets the IOC’s sustainability goals of staging climate-reliable Games in all existing, world-class venues,” that can show “we are a strong climate candidate through 2080.”

Utah’s Winter Games bid is still the one to beat, U.S. Olympic official says

Earlier this week, Bullock had suggested in an interview with Sports Business Journal that it might be hard to sustain the support of Utahns for the bid without some sort of “positive signal” from the IOC.

“We welcome today’s decision which will aid us in carrying forward the strong public enthusiasm for the Games here in Utah,” he said Friday, noting a dual award “provides all interested parties with a more succinct timeline.”

The move by the IOC was described by Toronto-based producer Robert Livingstone as an attempt to placate Salt Lake City’s concerns rather than opening up the 2034 race.

Sapporo, which has struggled to build public support given the bribery and bid-rigging scandal surrounding Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Games, is the only other bidder that’s publicly talked about competing with Salt Lake City for 2034.

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“But with Friday’s developments it seems unlikely that the Japanese city would be able to pivot to 2034 by next month with the negative public sentiment over the scandal still prevailing,” Livingstone wrote in a post Friday.

“The double allocation seems more likely to appease the United States’ bid from Salt Lake City,” he wrote, saying Bullock had made it clear to the IOC he needed “some indication that his bid is on the right track before the opportunity gets stale.” 

Livingstone was even more blunt on social media, posting that it was unclear how a double allocation for the 2030 and 2034 Olympics buys time to resolve the climate issues facing the Winter Games.

“Clearly DA (his abbreviation for a double allocation) is to lock in #SLC2034 now — not specifically a climate thing,” he posted on X, formally known as Twitter.

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