International Olympic Committee officials acknowledged Friday that backers of Utah’s bid for another Winter Games were told last week that the U.S government should have shown more support for the Beijing Games, but stopped short of saying that ruled out hosting in 2030.
“We repeated that it is incredibly important for those that do aspire to organize the Games,” IOC Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi told reporters during a virtual news conference from Switzerland, adding, “you need to have everybody aligned. It’s really a complicated effort.”
Dubi was responding to statements made Thursday by U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee Board Chair Susanne Lyons about the “bad feeling” expressed by IOC leaders over congressional calls for boycotting the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing that included a hearing on Olympic sponsorships by American companies.
The U.S. helped lead a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games to protest China’s human rights record that was backed by Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the head of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Athletes, however, were not kept from participating as happened during a previous boycott of the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow.
While Lyons said Salt Lake City was not out of the running for 2030, she also made it clear 2034 was more likely, leaving Sapporo, Japan, and Vancouver, Canada, as the leading candidates. Both Lyons and Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, said 2034 made more sense financially.
Her comments came after the USOPC and the bid committee met in Switzerland last week with IOC leaders, including IOC President Thomas Bach. The USOPC had been working behind the scenes on issues related to holding a Winter Games in Salt Lake City just 18 months after the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
Dubi said in the United States as well as elsewhere in the world, for bid cities and those already selected to host, “it is essential that we see the Games, the effort being at a time of bidding or organizing, or when preparing for the Games, that there is the best possible support with an alignment of all constituents.”
He said the advice that the IOC continues to give “is that everybody pull at the same rope.”
But Dubi had little to say about Utah’s chances of hosting in 2030. No mention was made, either, of what Bullock has termed the IOC’s “geopolitical” difficulties with awarding back-to-back Games in the same country. Under the IOC’s announced timeline, the IOC Executive Board will decide which city — or cities advance in December.
“We are in a very fortunate situation where the future hosts have really, really interesting value propositions, and ones that build on previous hosting of the Games. And that’s very reassuring when indeed, after a few decades, the intention from Sapporo, Salt Lake City or Vancouver is to come back and host again,” Dubi said.
What’s happening under this “noncommittal and non-edition specific” phase of the IOC’s new, less formal bid process is helping Salt Lake’s bid “with our expertise. We’ve learned a lot since 2002 so there’s a lot of exchange going on,” he said. “But at this point in time, we are not speaking about 2030 or 2034.”
Lyons said Thursday it is “more complicated” for the U.S. to host in 2030, thanks to the impact of inflation and the tough market for corporate sponsorships needed to foot the $2.2 billion price tag, Having “some air” between the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles and a Winter Games in Salt Lake City would help, she said.
IOC leaders were “fairly candid” about their frustrations with the United States, Lyons said.
“They know that we are not our government,” she said, adding the “bad feelings” go beyond the IOC to the more than 200 countries who participate in the Olympics because “many of them are not big fans of the U.S.” That already makes it “optically difficult,” Lyons said, for the IOC to award America back-to-back Games.
Bullock said a lot has changed since Salt Lake City launched its latest Olympic bid. It was more than 3 1⁄2 years ago that the USOPC selected Salt Lake City over Denver to bid for an unspecified future Winter Games on behalf of the nation.
“That was pre-(COVID-19) pandemic, pre-inflation, pre-potential recession,” Bullock said, making it even more challenging for the L.A. Games to be successful with Salt Lake following right after, on top of the geopolitical issues. “That’s the major shift that’s happened.”