Has Salt Lake City finally locked up the 2034 Winter Games?
IOC agrees to dual award for 2030, 2034 Olympics. Sweden, Switzerland and France are still in the race for 2030 but Salt Lake City is the only competitor for 2034
It looks like there’s no competition for Salt Lake City’s bid to host the 2034 Winter Games.
International Olympic Committee members voted Sunday to formally award both the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games together next year after being told Salt Lake City’s preference is for 2034 and the other three candidates still in the race are finalizing bids for 2030.
“I think it’s everything we could have hoped for,” said Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, describing the decision as “a tremendous step forward” now that Salt Lake City was identified as the only candidate for 2034.
Salt Lake City is bidding to host the more than $2.2 billion event in either 2030 or 2034, but has made it clear waiting until the later date is better financially, because that will avoid competition for domestic sponsors with the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
The next step for the bid that began more than a decade ago is a virtual presentation to the IOC’s Future Host Commission for the Winter Games during the week starting Nov. 19 that will include Gov. Spencer Cox and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.
IOC Executive Board members will decide when they meet from Nov. 30 through Dec. 1 which bids will advance to contract negotiations for 2030 and 2034, known as targeted dialogue under the new, less formal selection process.
Their choices to host the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games will go to the full membership for a final ratification vote next year, likely in July just before the start of the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.
All three of the late entries in the race are expected to finalize their initial bid feasibility studies no later than the end of the month. Salt Lake City’s bid has been finishing up the hefty submissions not required until targeted dialogue.
There was no mention of longtime bidders Sapporo, Japan, and Vancouver, Canada. Both have struggled to secure needed support and Japanese officials announced last week Sapporo was dropping out of the running for 2030 but may seek a future Winter Games.
What Salt Lake City’s bid has already done
Stoss not only highlighted Salt Lake City as the “one interested party” that wants to host in 2034, but also that the bid committee “has already secured all guarantees for 2030 and 2034” from local, state and national authorities.
Bullock said the guarantees secured from the federal government, the Utah Legislature and the communities where 2002 Winter Games venues are set to be used again have already been submitted to the IOC.
The deadline isn’t until March for cities advanced to targeted dialogue to turn in those guarantees, which include state lawmakers agreeing to accept ultimate financial responsibility for the privately funded Winter Games.
“We have put tremendous effort into staying ahead of the bid process so that they know they can count on us. Having 100% of the federal, state and local guarantees is a key element of that and we are so appreciative of our partners at all levels,” he said.
That ”provided the IOC with an opportunity for a proven, reliable preferred host in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2034,” said Bullock, the former chief operating officer of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
The vote by the full membership for a dual award followed an announcement Friday by IOC President Thomas Bach that the Executive Board had given it a “green light” during their closed-door meetings in India.
Bach told IOC members Sunday he wanted them to vote on the measure to avoid any change of heart on their part so that at next year’s session, “we are going straight to the election of ’30 and then of ’34.”
Stability is what the IOC is clearly looking for when it comes to the Winter Games.
Last December, the IOC Executive Board had been expected to choose a Winter Games host from Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver, but delayed a decision amid the issues with the Japanese and Canadian bids and launched a climate change study.
Would Salt Lake City be part of a possible Winter Games rotation?
Stoss said Sunday that a dual award offers security for the Olympics through 2034 in uncertain economic times and gives the IOC time to explore rotating future Winter Games to ensure climate reliability and encourage sustainability.
The Future Host Commission chairman said that could mean looking at regional or multinational Winter Games beyond 2034 in order to meet climate as well as infrastructure challenges that come from building “nice to have” but nonessential venues.
“There is no doubt that we are facing great challenges and our goal is to ensure that we can continue to host successful Olympic Winter Games in the future,” Stoss said, stressing the time has come to face climate change. “Don’t look away any longer.”
New criteria for future Winter Games hosts being considered include using only existing or temporary venues and projected average minimum temperatures below freezing at Games time at least through 2050.
Stoss shared some findings but did not offer details.
Only 15 countries currently have at least 80% of the necessary venues, most often missing a speedskating oval or sliding track, he said, adding that with 10 of those also being recent hosts or bidders for a Winter Games, “we are looking at the right pool of potential hosts.”
A total of 97 “ski stations” around the world were evaluated for snow reliability, Stoss said, and only those in the U.S., Canada, eight unnamed European and five unnamed Asian countries will stay climate reliable, Stoss said.
A “number of options” for the long-term rotation of the Winter Games have been identified and will be studied further, he said, along with ways to control the costs of hosting that could see some Olympic events treated like world championships.
Utah is on the list of places that can consistently provide cold temperatures for competition for decades to come, Bullock said, with the venues already in place for a “compact” Winter Games.
Whether Salt Lake City would be part of such a rotation still has to be decided, he said.
“We would love to be considered as a candidate for rotational Games but we need to have those discussions locally,” to make sure political leaders and the public are on board, Bullock said. “I, for one, am a big fan of the idea.”