SALT LAKE CITY — International Olympic Committee leaders named Brisbane, Australia, its preferred bid for the 2032 Summer Games this week, but there was no talk about Salt Lake City or other places pursuing the Winter Games in 2030.
“I would like to emphasize that this recommendation and this decision is not a decision against anybody,” IOC President Thomas Bach said during a virtual news conference held after Wednesday’s monthly executive committee meeting. “This is just a decision in favor of one interested party at this moment in time.”
Bach said there was no report at the meeting on future Winter Olympics hosts.
But just because IOC leaders are already looking ahead to the 2032 Olympics doesn’t mean they’re behind on making decisions about upcoming Winter Games. Before the new, less-formal selection process was put in place recently, host cities were named seven years in advance.
What does this mean for Utah?
Fraser Bullock, the chief operating officer of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City and the president and CEO of Utah’s effort to land another Olympics, also helped put together the IOC’s new bid process. He said “it’s understandable” the IOC would be looking at the next Summer Games to be awarded at this point.
“I believe the reason is that Brisbane has moved very quickly, far in advance of the typical time frame. They have made great progress and they are moving to the next logical step,” Bullock said. “The same will eventually happen for winter bids.”
For now, Bullock said, Utah bidders “continue to actively work” with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to determine whether to pursue the 2030 or the 2034 Winter Games, still nine to 13 years away. The Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, which hasn’t met publicly since November, is working on budgets and other plans.
“We are making good progress in the detailed work toward a future bid,” Bullock said.
Salt Lake City was chosen more than two years ago by the U.S. committee over Denver to bid on behalf of the nation for an unspecified Winter Games. Last fall, then-Gov. Gary Herbert, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and bid committee leaders officially notified Bach in a letter that they hope to welcome the world again.
Unlike Brisbane, which had committed to compete for 2032, Salt Lake City and the other cities that have expressed interest in hosting a Winter Games are not yet ready to go that far.
All of those potential Winter Games host cities have previously hosted an Olympics: Salt Lake City, the 2002 Winter Games; Sapporo, Japan, the 1972 Winter Games; Vancouver, British Columbia, the 2010 Winter Games; and Barcelona, Spain, the 1992 Summer Games.
Salt Lake needs the nod from the USOPC about which Winter Games the United States wants, a choice complicated by Los Angeles hosting the 2028 Summer Games and not wanting competition for domestic sponsorships.
For Sapporo, the issue is lagging support in Japan for the Olympics after the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo were delayed until this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other potential Winter Games hosts have yet to secure significant backing for bidding.
Impact of new process for awarding bids
Still, there’s no rush, said Ed Hula, founder and editor of Around the Rings, an Atlanta-based online Olympic news source with an international following. Hula said he expects the IOC will wait to see how this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo come off before focusing on the Winter Games.
“Sapporo is well-prepared and probably doesn’t need to do much to bring the Olympics back. And neither does Salt Lake City. So they can wait a couple more years at least before they make a decision. They have that luxury from the quality of the possible candidates,” he said.
Since there isn’t a timetable anymore for a city to indicate interest in hosting an Olympics, nor a set date for the IOC to choose a host, Hula said Olympic officials may want to give Vancouver and Barcelona time to build support for their bids to ensure there’s plenty of choices for future Winter Games.
It wasn’t that long ago that the IOC ended up awarding Beijing the 2022 Winter Games over Almaty, Kazakhstan, after other contenders, including Stockholm and Oslo, dropped out. Recently, there have been calls to boycott Beijing, which also hosted the 2008 Summer Games, because of China’s human rights record.
“I think you’re still in a situation, particularly with winter bids, winter cities, of having not so many options,” Hula said. The IOC has set a precedent for awarding multiple Olympics at the same time, when Paris got the 2024, and Los Angeles the 2028, Summer Games.
Brisbane is the first city to advance under the IOC’s new bid process, established in 2019 to make it easier and cheaper for cities to go after a Games by limiting lobbying and dropping formalities in favor of ongoing discussions with a new future host commission.
Cities in a number of countries had been looking at 2032, including Germany, Indonesia, China, Qatar and India, but the IOC Executive Committee voted to enter into what’s called a “targeted dialog” with Brisbane based on the Australian city’s extensive plans for an Olympics largely using existing venues.
That means if the commission is satisfied after further review, the full IOC will be asked to name Brisbane the 2032 host. Just when that might happen is yet to be decided, the commission chairwoman, Norwegian IOC member Kristin Kloster Aasen, said.
Moving forward with Brisbane at this point is seen as helping bring stability to the Olympics, she said, “given the uncertainty the world is facing at this moment which is expected to continue” even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. She said the new bid process allowed the IOC “to seize the opportunity.”