There won’t be a final decision next year on which city should host the 2030 Winter Games after all, the International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday, citing concerns about the impact of climate change on potential future hosts.

The surprise announcement also raised the possibility not only that both the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games could be awarded at the same times but also that there could be new competition to the cities already in the race, Salt Lake City; Sapporo, Japan; and Vancouver, Canada.

Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, welcomed the news.

“Even though I’m disappointed with the delay in the award, it opens the door to our potential best-case scenario,” Bullock said. “Our best-case scenario is a dual award because we know 2030 would be more challenging. If we have the opportunity to lock into 2034 earlier, that is a huge win for us.”

IOC leaders set to hear ‘very precise report’ on 2030 Winter Games bidders. Here’s why their pick might still be months away

The IOC Executive Board, which ends three days of meetings on Wednesday, originally had been expected to narrow the field of candidates for 2030. But that timetable was no longer clear after a postponement of the annual IOC session where the leadership’s pick is ratified was delayed from next May until sometime in the fall of 2023.

Still, it wasn’t until Tuesday that Christophe Dubi, IOC Olympic Games executive director, spelled out it’s going to take even longer for a decision to be made about 2030. Dubi said much of the closed-door discussion among the executive board members focused on the uncertainties climate change is creating for the Winter Games.

Climate change could have an impact on choosing future Winter Games hosts based on preliminary research showing “a potential reduction in the number of climate reliable hosts in the future,” he said. According to a recent study, by the end of the century, Sapporo will be the only previous Winter Games site able to host again.

Dubi said the IOC Future Host Commission, which quietly sent technical teams to the 2030 contenders earlier this year and recently heard virtual pitches, asked for and was given more time to study the impact of rising temperatures and other climate issues so new requirements can be set for bidders.

Should the same cities keep hosting the Winter Games?

Also discussed, he said, was the possibility of rotating the Winter Games “with a certain pool” of cities and regions able to meet requirements such as a decadelong record of steady below-freezing temperatures during the time a Games would be held.

Bullock said Utah’s bid is in “relatively good shape” climate wise, at least through 2050. He said more analysis is needed to determine if Utah, host of the 2002 Winter Games, could serve as a rotating site for the Olympics beyond that. Sapporo hosted in 1972, and Vancouver, in 2010.

“Given the sustainability question and climate change, that the notion of selecting a group of host cities that the Games would rotate to fits well with our capabilities,” Bullock said. “We have all the venues in place. We’re a very attractive destination from the Games footprint, a compact Games.”

He called the IOC’s move to dig deeper into climate change “fantastic” and a “much needed and welcome step.”

Salt Lake City is bidding for both the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games, with a stated preference to host in 2034 because of the feared financial impact of back-to-back Olympics in the United States, with Los Angeles already hosting the 2028 Summer Games.

A big milestone in Utah’s bid for another Olympics will only last 50 minutes. See what’s happening here
Why Utah’s governor feels ‘really confident’ about state hosting another Olympics

Sapporo has been seen as a frontrunner in the race, but a growing Olympic bribery scandal involving the 2020 Summer Games held in Tokyo last year has derailed support. And Vancouver had been thought to be out of the running after British Columbia’s government refused to pledge more than $1 billion in taxpayer funds.

A dual award, once seen as likely because the IOC had a pair of strong candidates in Sapporo and Salt Lake City, had been taken off the table by IOC President Thomas Bach, who wanted a decision on 2034 to wait until his successor is in place after his term ends in three years.

Dubi said “a very preliminary discussion” has started about awarding 2030 and 2034 together to provide more stability at a time when “everybody has been suffering from the climate change and is thinking about directions in the future.”

How long before the IOC chooses a 2030 host?

Bullock said Utah bidders will wrap up the details of both the 2030 and 2034 bids in the coming months.

“We’re going to go ahead and complete our work, We’re not going to push the pause button until things clarify,” he said, adding that in “bidding for the Olympic Games, anything can happen. That’s why our strategy is to stay ahead in terms of preparation and be ready to go.”

The IOC’s director of future Olympic Games hosts, Jacqueline Barrett, told reporters what’s known as the “continuous dialog” start to the bid process will go on until the IOC leaders are ready to advance a city — or cities — to the next stage, contract negotiations.

“Of course, we’re not going to push this decision many years down the road,” Barrett said. “There will have to be a decision, you know, at some point in the near future.”

She described the current stage of the new, less formal bid process that no longer requires the IOC to choose a host city seven years ahead of a Games as “open-ended, non-committal and open,” meaning more cities could get into the race.

“The mandate of the commission is to constantly ensure that there will be a healthy pipeline of interest for the future. So that’s why our door is open every day of the year for any interest,” Barrett said, in either the Winter or Summer Games.

Dubi said the IOC isn’t worried about the effect of the delayed decision on the eventual 2030 pick. The next opportunity for a final IOC vote on the next Winter Games host won’t come until just before the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.

“Those proposals we have on the table, they have hosted Games in the past and they have venues. They have the expertise as well,” he said. “So no concern whatsoever. We feel very comfortable with that, actually. We can award Games later and still be right on time to deliver.”