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A 2030 Winter Olympics in Utah? Why it ‘makes a lot of sense’ to Nathan Chen

Salt Lake City native and Olympic gold medalist says Salt Lake City is ready to host in 2030 or 2034

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Gold medalist Nathan Chen of the U.S. celebrates during the medal ceremony for the men’s free skate at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Feb. 10, 2022.

Gold medalist Nathan Chen of the United States celebrates during the medal ceremony for the men’s free skate at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Beijing.

Jae C. Hong, Associate Press

For Olympic figure skating gold medalist Nathan Chen, bringing the Winter Games back to Salt Lake City just “makes a lot of sense” because his hometown is ready to host again as soon as 2030.

“Absolutely, we certainly have the capability of doing it in either 2030 or 2034,” Chen told insidethegames.com in a story headlined, “Exclusive: Chen backs Salt Lake City to step into breach to host 2030 Winter Olympics.”

The 23-year-old who took the top spot in men’s figure skating at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing said it was Salt Lake City’s 2002 Winter Games that “gave me as a young 3-year-old kid the motivation, drive and inspiration to want to go to an Olympics myself.”

Chen, a member of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games that’s bidding for either the 2030 or 2034 Winter Games, said he wants to ensure other Utahns have the same experience.

“Having an Olympics in a home town of a lot of young athletes can be very inspiring so I think having an opportunity to bring it back to Salt Lake City could be huge,” he said during an interview at the 2023 Winter World University Games in Lake Placid, New York.

Describing himself as “really passionate about bringing the Olympics back to Salt Lake City,” Chen said Utah has “great infrastructure already built in and 2002 is something that spurred me on to get into the Olympics and clearly has a very large community aspect.”

Whether that’s sooner rather than later is up to the International Olympic Committee, which now isn’t expected to settle on a site for 2030 until sometime next year. The 2034 Winter Games may be awarded at the same time.

While Utahns may not want to wait until 2034 to host again, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has made it clear it would be better financially to put more time between a Winter Games and the 2028 Summer Games being held in Los Angeles.

Chen said Utah has “the developed infrastructure that is already in place, so it makes a lot of sense to bring it back to Salt Lake City.” But, he added, “ultimately we will work together with the Salt Lake (bid committee) board and see what are the best options.”

Fraser Bullock, the bid committee’s president and CEO, said Utah is prepared for 2030 or 2034.

“I love Nathan’s enthusiasm for welcoming the Games back to Utah. His Olympic story is one of the best ever. The desire to host the Games sooner rather than later is very understandable,” Bullock said in a statement.

“We also know that hosting in 2034 is better from an economic point of view,” he added. “But we will be ready to host in 2030 if called upon. We would be thrilled to host either Games.”

The IOC had been expected to finalize a 2030 host this fall, choosing between Salt Lake City and struggling bids from two other previous Winter Games hosts, Sapporo, Japan; and Vancouver, Canada.

Sapporo officials have paused the Japanese city’s bid amid a growing Olympic bribery scandal involving organizers of Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Games that were delayed a year due to COVID-19.

Vancouver’s bid to become the first Indigenous-led Olympics is trying to win the support from British Columbia after provincial leaders refused to pledge more than $1 billion toward hosting.

But last month IOC leaders decided to postpone the pick, saying they need to consider the impact of climate change on the Winter Games. The delay gives Sapporo and Vancouver more time to deal with the issues surrounding their bids for 2030.

Other bids, which the IOC has said would be welcomed, have started to surface. Those include a “European super bid” from France, Switzerland and Italy, although a government official from at one of the locations involved said he isn’t interested.

The situation has prompted one longtime Olympic communications expert to suggest the IOC should “reverse course and grab Salt Lake City while it can” for 2030, warning public support in Utah could waver, especially if it looks like Utah’s bid is being taken for granted.