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What’s next for Utah’s bid to host another Winter Games? Hint: It involves the IOC

State Olympic leaders still hoping for a decision on 2030 versus 2034 Winter Games by the end of the year

Fraser Bullock holds an Olympic torch from the 2002 Winter Games.
Fraser Bullock, who served as chief operating officer for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics, holds one of that year’s Olympic torches while he poses for a photograph at his home in Alpine on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. Leaders of the bid to bring back another Winter Games to Utah continued to express hope Tuesday that a decision will be made by the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee before the end of the year whether they’re trying for 2030 or 2034.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Leaders of the bid to bring back another Winter Games to Utah announced Tuesday’s they’ll meet next month with International Olympic Committee officials in Switzerland for the first time as America’s choice to host in either 2030 or 2034.

A delegation from the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games — including a representative still to be determined from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee — is traveling to Europe at the end of November to meet for the first time as America’s choice to host a future Winter Games with IOC officials.

“Our message is that we’re pushing forward. We’re ready so that when the door opens, we are pushing full speed ahead,” Fraser Bullock, the bid’s president and CEO told reporters after a private meeting of the committee’s governing board.

Next week, Bullock and the bid’s chairwoman, Catherine Raney Norman, are headed to the USOPC’s Colorado Springs headquarters for talks about 2030 versus 2034. He continued to express hope Tuesday that the USOPC will decide between the two dates before the end of the year.

That appeared likely earlier this year, when the USOPC finally started discussions with the IOC about a Winter Games bid during the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo that were delayed by COVID-19. It’s been nearly three years since Salt Lake City was selected over Denver to bid on behalf of the U.S. for a future Winter Games.

But last month, USPOC officials declined to commit to a timeline for picking a date.

There’s no deadline for submitting a formal bid to the IOC, which has the final say where the Olympics are held. However, the new, less formal process for selecting host cities means a decision can come at any time. Earlier this year, Brisbane, Australia, was named host of the 2032 Summer Games to the surprise of potential competitors.

That’s not expected to happen with the 2030 Winter Games, the CEO of the U.S. Olympic committee, Sarah Hirshland, said during a September news conference, at least not before the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, set to start in February.

“We don’t have any reason to believe that there will be a decision around a host city for the 2030 Games before Beijing, so our commitment is to continue to explore those discussions with the IOC and we’ll do that,” Hirschland said then, adding she didn’t believe there should be “any question about our commitment and our interest.”

Bullock also said bidders “don’t see anything that would potentially surprise us or the public.” He also pointed out that traditionally, Olympics are awarded seven years in advance so there’s still plenty of time for preparations that include building community support.

“I think it will be more methodical, where we will come out in support of a particular year, between us and the USOPC and take that forward to the IOC,” Bullock said. He said he expects the Switzerland-based IOC to hold meetings with other cities interested in hosting a Winter Games and downplayed expectations.

“I’m not expecting a lot. This visit with the IOC is fabulous, but I recognize that it’s just a step in the process,” Bullock said.

That’s because the primary focus of the Olympic world is on the upcoming Winter Games, he said, coming just months after Tokyo and is already generating calls for a diplomatic boycott because of China’s human rights record, including from Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who led the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Bullock said Utah bidders will understand if they still don’t know whether they’re going after the 2030 or 2034 Winter Games until after Beijing.

“Not having that definitive decision to date does not hurt us,” he said. “We don’t see that as a disadvantage.”

Bullock’s presentation to the board included an updated list of competitors for the next Winter Games to be awarded by the IOC. Ukraine recently jumped in alongside Sapporo, Japan; Vancouver, Canada; and Barcelona, Spain — cities that have previously hosted an Olympics as Salt Lake City did in 2002.

“Over time, it does become more competitive as more and more cities express interest. So as we look to 2030 or 2034, we do have a lot of other cities that are interested. We think our particular case is very strong,” he said. “We have really strong bid readiness.”

Next February marks the 20-year anniversary of the Olympics in Utah, and Bullock said as progress is made on the bid, “we look forward to engaging our community,” promising “next year will be one of a lot of progress and excitement” for Utahns.

“We’re working extremely hard behind the scenes to make sure we are ready so that when that time comes, we can move forward,” Raney Norman, a speedskater who competed in four Olympics, including in 2002. “The athletes are also ready. The athletes are ready to see a Games come back to the United States.”