Utahns still really want to host another Olympics, according to a new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll.
As Utah’s efforts to land the 2030 or 2034 Winter Games continue, just 12% of Utahns disapprove of another Winter Games coming to the state, including 7% who strongly disapprove, while another 6% aren’t sure how they feel.
The poll was conducted Jan. 23-30 of 802 registered voters in Utah by Dan Jones & Associates for the Deseret News and the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.
Jason Perry, Hinckley Institute of Politics director, said support for another Olympics in Utah is strong across the board.
“No matter how old you are or what political party you belong to, Utahns want the Olympics Games back,” Perry said. “The Olympic spirit has managed to find a permanent home in Utah and the clear consensus is that we want to be back on that world stage.”
Salt Lake City’s bid faces competition from Sapporo, Japan, and Vancouver, Canada. In December, International Olympic Committee leaders postponed a decision on what now may be a dual award of both the 2030 and 2034 Games, likely until sometime next year.
But that clearly hasn’t dampened Utahns’ enthusiasm. Support has increased since last August, when a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll measured approval among Utahns for another Olympics at 79%.
Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games that’s behind the bid, said he believes a dual award means the state could be selected within the next 18 months to host a Winter Games.
“The prospects for us are extremely positive right now and it’s close enough that we can feel it,” Bullock said, noting a dual award accelerates the timeline for a 2034 pick by several years at least under the IOC’s new, informal bid process.
That’s when the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee wants to see Salt Lake City host, because of a feared financial hit if the next Winter Games in the U.S. comes right after the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
Bullock said he believes Salt Lake City “stands a good chance of getting 2034,” but is ready to host in 2030 if needed. Both Sapporo and Vancouver are dealing with issues surrounding their bids that are sinking public support.
In Sapporo, there’s an ongoing Olympic bribery scandal involving organizers of the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo held in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in Vancouver, the British Columbia government has balked at pledging more than $1 billion towards hosting.
Utahns who want to see another Olympics in the state recall the 2002 Winter Games fondly.
Christine Nielson, a retired substitute teacher who lives in Monroe, said she and others are very supportive of another Winter Games in Utah because of the “good impression” from hosting in 2002.
“We watched it on television. But it was a fun thing. It was an exciting time. I don’t really have any heartburn with it, to be honest with you. I just think it’s a good thing,” she said, calling the Olympics an event that “helps build bridges.”
Nielson said the state as well as her church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that’s headquartered in Salt Lake City, would benefit from Utah hosting another Winter Games.
“It exposes the world to what we have to offer,” she said, describing Utah as “cosmopolitan,” with many residents who are familiar with other languages and cultures as a result of the church’s missionary program.
Russell Card, of Highland, said he strongly approves of Utah hosting another Olympics because his accounting job kept him too busy to volunteer during the 2002 Winter Games. Now that he’s retired, Card said he hopes to participate.
“I kind of felt that last time, it helped hold the overall community of Utah — at least along the Wasatch Front — together, so I think that could be a good thing to do again,” he said, citing the effect of the Olympics on building “some pride in Utah.”
Card said he’s not surprised 82% of Utahns also want to see another Winter Games.
“I’m sure part of that is because it was a good experience before. If it had been a disaster, I think things would look the other way,” he said. The 2002 Games were widely hailed as a success and even declared “superb” by then-IOC President Jacques Rogge.
The accolades came despite Salt Lake City’s prominent role in a late 1990s bid bribery scandal involving IOC members and the security concerns raised by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
Bullock, who served as the chief operating officer of the 2002 Games, said it’s usually “incredibly difficult” to get 80% of the public to agree on anything. But, he said, the Olympics are different because they can bring people together.
“The hope of the Games is that the world comes together under the umbrella of sport to celebrate human achievement,” Bullock said, adding the poll shows that unity is already strong in Utah.
Whether it’s shared right now remains to be seen. Currently, a growing controversy over whether Russian athletes should be allowed to participate in the 2024 Summer Games in Paris despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is splitting the Olympic world.
“We hope that feeling of unity goes beyond our community to other countries and to the entire world. That’s the purpose of hosting the Games,” Bullock said. Utahns, he said, understand that.
“We know what the Olympics can do. We’ve seen it once and we’re going to see it again,” Bullock said. “There’s always some turmoil in the world, but the Olympic and the Paralympic Games can be a beacon of hope as they were in 2002.”