Utah’s bid for another Olympics is shifting into high gear.

A delegation that includes Gov. Spencer Cox, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn are set Tuesday to make their case for hosting the 2030 Winter Games to the International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission, the group charged with evaluating Winter Games bids.

They’ll have 50 minutes to make a presentation and answer any questions from the commission during a virtual meeting that’s expected to focus on technical qualifications for hosting. The only remaining contender for 2030, Sapporo, Japan, is expected to do the same.

“It’s a very significant milestone because it brings together all of the work that we have been developing over the past year,” said Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games. “So we’re very excited about it, to share our story and what we think are the strong elements of our proposal to host.”

Utah’s Olympic bidders are confident another Winter Games is coming. But when?

Bullock, the chief operating officer of Utah’s last Winter Games, in 2002, and the bid committee’s chairwoman, Olympic speedskater Catherine Raney Norman, are also part of Utah’s pitch to host again, along with officials from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Their presentation, which will include the mayor talking about sustainability, will be limited to speeches and slides. Bullock said the emphasis on providing technical information has helped keep bidding costs low. So far, about $1 million in privately raised funds have been spent on the bid, he’s said.

The IOC commission, which sent a technical team to Utah in April that spent three days quietly visiting venues and going over bid details before later doing the same in Sapporo, is scheduled to offer recommendations about a 2030 host to the IOC Executive Board before its next meeting in early December.

What happens next is yet to be determined.

Earlier this year, IOC President Thomas Bach had announced the Executive Board would decide in December which city — or, possibly, cities — should advance to contract negotiations under the new, less formal bid process that does not specify a timeline for choosing a host.

But that decision, which could make it clear where the 2030 Games are going, may not come until March or April of next year. That’s because the final ratification vote by the full IOC membership on the 2030 host set to be held next May has been postponed until fall of 2023.

Why U.S. Olympic leaders still want Salt Lake City to host a Winter Games in 2034, not 2030

Complicating the competition between Sapporo and Salt Lake City are an Olympic bribery scandal in Japan involving payments made to an executive of the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo held last year, and the USOPC wanting Salt Lake City to wait until 2034 to host again rather than follow the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

Robert Livingstone, GamesBids.com producer, said that puts the IOC in a tough spot.

“Obviously, they’re in a predicament here,” Livingstone said. “They have two bids, one that’s currently controversial due to the Tokyo 2020 scandal that’s growing and then another bid which is willing to step in but is really targeting 2034. So there doesn’t seem to be a good, solid viable bid for 2030 at this point.”

He said the situation makes it more likely the IOC will hold off on getting behind a candidate city. Bach has already ruled out a dual award of both the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games at the same time, saying his successor should be in place when the next pick is made.

“They probably don’t have an appetite for Sapporo right in this moment,” Livingstone said. “You can imagine if they were to name only Sapporo now, what that would look like amid this scandal that’s just growing. It wouldn’t be a good look. So by March, maybe things are different.”

There’s another possibility, he said.

“I think they’ll be interested in listening to the Salt Lake presentation, to see whether they’re really serious and ready to go for 2030. Because I think if they hear that, maybe they lock in Salt Lake now, if Salt Lake’s ready to go ahead,” Livingstone said.

With Vancouver out, which city is the front-runner for the 2030 Winter Games, Salt Lake City or Sapporo?
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In September, USOPC leaders spelled out their concerns about the financial impact of back-to-back Olympics in the United States on the “sponsorships and other commercial activities,” necessary in a country that doesn’t rely on taxpayer funding to cover the multi-billion dollar cost of hosting.

Bullock said Utah’s bidders have been “very candid” with the IOC. “They know that we’re prepared to host ‘30 or ‘34, whatever is in the best interest of the Olympic movement. There’s some advantages to 2034, given the proximity of L.A. but if they need us in ‘30, we’re ready,” he said.

So what are the chances of Salt Lake City being needed to host in 2030? Bullock said he doesn’t know.

“The process is very fluid. The dynamics can change on any given day,” he said. “So our strategy is to put our heads down, do all the work necessary to present our best case, and then leave it up to the dynamics that the IOC experiences all the time to find the best fit for us to host a future Games.”

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