After a day of meetings with International Olympic Committee officials at their headquarters in Switzerland, the head of Utah’s bid for another Winter Games said Wednesday there’s still “no definitive answer” on whether that’s for 2030 or 2034 — and may not be for a while.
“They know we would certainly love to do Games sooner rather than later,” Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, told reporters during a virtual news conference. However, questions remain about back-to-back Olympics in the U.S., since the 2028 Summer Games are in Los Angeles.
Choosing to keep the Olympics in the same country for two Games in a row would not only be politically difficult for the IOC — something Bullock recently explained to bid committee members in Salt Lake City — it also could reduce revenues from domestic sponsorships.
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee that selected Salt Lake City in 2018 to bid for an unspecified future Winter Games and shares in the money made from sponsorships has been working with Los Angeles organizers behind the scenes to address the financial issues.
“Our position is, we will host a Games when it is in the best interest of the Olympic movement and all the pieces fit together as best we can. We’re trying to make those pieces fit together as soon as we can,” Bullock said, considering what’s best for the USOPC and others involved.
That may take time.
“There’s no definitive answer at all yet, and we won’t expect that until probably well in the targeted dialog,” he said, referring to the next stage of the bid process for the city — or cities — now expected to be named in early December to enter into negotiations with the IOC to host an upcoming Winter Games.
Is the answer awarding the 2030, 2034 Games at the same time?
Under the IOC’s new, less formal process for naming a host city, multiple bids have been awarded at the same time, something that observers believe may happen with the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games, given the candidates in the race.
Salt Lake City’s strongest rival is seen as Sapporo, Japan; but Vancouver, Canada, has just laid out its plans for the first Indigenous-led Olympics that would include a competition site five hours away from the city. A bid by Barcelona, Spain, and the Pyrenees mountain region appears to have stalled. All have previously hosted Games.
Asked whether Utah is counting on the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games hosts to be chosen as part of the current bid process, Bullock said, “that’s all up to the IOC. We just put our heads down, give our best proposal, and let them go through their processes.”
He said the Utah bidders have been assured they’ve already delivered everything needed for the IOC’s Future Host Commission for the Olympic Winter Games to make its recommendations to the IOC Executive Board sometime in November. The IOC Executive Board is set to advance a city or cities in early December.
The final host city vote by the full IOC membership is planned for May 2023. Bullock said even though the work for this phase of the bid process is completed, bidders will stay busy with plans for public engagement to hear their concerns and expectations for another Olympics.
Who did — and didn’t — go to Switzerland
Another member of the Utah bid team, retired world champion alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn, described the IOC officials they met with, including IOC President Thomas Bach, as “very receptive and very positive.” Vonn, who competed in the Olympics for the first time at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, met privately with Bach.
Bullock said the IOC president complimented the vision presented by the Utah team, which also included the bid committee chairwoman, four-time Olympic speedskater Catherine Raney Norman, consultant Darren Hughes and a representative of Gov. Spencer Cox, Nubia Peña, director of the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs.
Peña, a senior adviser to the governor on equity and opportunity and, like Vonn, a member of the bid committee’s governing board, “so eloquently, as she by nature is, expressed the deep support of Gov. Cox for this all important initiative,” Bullock said.
The governor’s office said the travel costs for Peña were paid for by the privately funded bid committee and no state funds were used.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall had hoped to make the trip, too, but stayed in Utah because of a critical budget vote. Mendenhall said in a statement she hopes to attend future IOC meetings in person but has “full faith” in the bid committee leadership.
The mayor said she looks “forward to our continued discussions to bring the Olympics back to Salt Lake City.”
Wednesday’s meetings marked the first time Utah bidders were able to sit down with IOC leaders in Lausanne, Switzerland. Previous in-person meetings scheduled in Switzerland were moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s just something about that human-to-human connection that is very warm,” Bullock said. “One of things that we felt in particular was the sense of partnership. We all want to do what’s best for the Olympic movement, and that came through, that we all want to be together in this journey.”
The skier who’d be in charge of the ‘heart of the Games”
Utah bidders have yet to detail their vision for another Olympics in the state, although Bullock has said the price tag would be $2.2 billion in 2030 dollars, money that would come largely through the sale of sponsorships, broadcast rights and tickets, not state or local taxpayers.
What was shared with the IOC included plans for “expanding the universality of sport around the world, for what it does for connecting people of various countries and backgrounds,” he said, “which we do already so well in Utah. We train athletes from 30 countries in Utah” at facilities built for the 2002 Games.
Vonn has agreed to be “chair of the athletes’ experience,” Bullock said, calling that “the heart of the Games.”
Competing in the Salt Lake Games at 17 years old turned out to be her best Olympic experience, Vonn said, so she’s hoping to help “create something really special for all of the Olympic participants and also for their families,” no matter how large they are.
She said as a 9-year-old, she was inspired by meeting American alpine ski racer Picabo Street, who retired after competing in the 2002 Games. “It’s my responsibility to do what Picabo did for me and try to engage youth in the next generation and hopefully, have them aspire to be Olympians or athletes as well,” Vonn said.
Being part of another Winter Games in the same place where she made her Olympic debut, she said, “would be such a full circle moment.”