Salt Lake City’s Olympic bid has a big fan in Sapporo — even though the Japanese city could end up being all that’s standing in the way of the Utah capital hosting the 2034 Winter Games.

“I live in Sapporo. Many Sapporo citizens want the Olympic bid to be stopped,” a recent tweet from a Japanese account stated in English. “I’m sorry that the Japanese bid pushers have troubled Salt Lake City. I hope the 2034 Olympics will be held in Salt Lake City.”

The poster, @woleisile, told the Deseret News she’s a 48-year-old housewife who wants to see the city’s bid halted after the Japanese Olympic Committee said Sapporo’s Winter Games bid may be moved from 2030 to 2034 due to lagging public support.

“If it is postponed, it will cost more to bid for the Olympics, so I want Sapporo to stop it. Originally Salt Lake City wanted to host the Olympics in 2034, so I think it would be best for the city that wants to do it,” she said, asking that her real name not be used.

Related
Salt Lake City is no longer seen as a ‘shoo-in’ to host another Winter Olympics. Here’s why

Both Salt Lake City and Sapporo had been seen as the frontrunners in the race to host the 2030 Winter Games. For a while, it looked like the International Olympic Committee might tap Sapporo to host in 2030 and Salt Lake City, in 2034.

Salt Lake City is bidding to host in either 2030 or 2034 but would rather wait the extra four years to avoid any financial fallout from competing for domestic sponsors with another American city, Los Angeles, the host of the 2028 Summer Games.

What had seemed to some like a sure thing for both cities stalled after public support for Sapporo’s bid plummeted last year amid a widening Olympic bribery and bid-rigging scandal surrounding Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Games, held a year late due to COVID-19.

“Unlike Sapporo, Salt Lake City has a high resident approval rating,” the Twitter poster said. She later added that she believes “the opposition mood is increasing” and support for an Olympic bid in Sapporo won’t get any better, “even if it is shifted to 2034.”

Poll after poll shows a majority of residents in Sapporo, which last hosted a Winter Games in 1972, don’t want another Olympics. However, a recent Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll showed more than 80% of Utahns approve of hosting a second Winter Games.

“Many people are dissatisfied because Sapporo City ignores the opinions of its citizens. I don’t want to be forced to hold the Olympics,” she said, describing her screen name in Japanese as referring to the Chinese phrase, “so tired.”

Sapporo residents have concerns about the Olympics that extend beyond the corruption allegations, she said, including roads in the snowy northern city that “become narrower and cause traffic jams” because they aren’t properly plowed.

“It snows a lot in Sapporo, but the residents are having a hard time because it is just like a disaster,” she said, adding, “There are many opinions from citizens that they want the money to be used for snow removal rather than for the Olympics.”

There are also bad feelings about Sapporo having been enlisted to host the marathon for the Tokyo Olympics because it offered cooler temperatures, the poster said, accusing the IOC of being “absolute and colonial” and “arrogant.”

The venue change adversely affected public life, restricting traffic and access to parks, she said. “When it comes to holding the Olympics, the Olympics become the top priority and take away resources for other important things.”

Will Salt Lake have to wait longer for another Olympics?

With a third bidder, Vancouver, Canada, still struggling to gain government backing for a pledge of more than $1 billion in public funding, the IOC delayed choosing the 2030 Winter Games host in December, opening up the race to new contenders.

No date has been set for a decision under the IOC’s new, less formal bid process being used for the first time to select a Winter Games host, but both the 2030 and 2034 sites could be selected some time next year.

The IOC has confirmed only that there are more than six places now seeking a Winter Games. Sweden and Switzerland have publicly expressed interest, but IOC officials have declined to name who else is in the running.

With an unknown number of new potential Winter Games locations in the mix and Sapporo now eying 2034, there’s already some talk that Salt Lake City, host of the 2002 Winter Games, could have to wait until 2038 — or later — for another Olympics.

That’s puzzling to Matthew Burbank, a University of Utah political science professor who has written books about Olympics. Burbank said he doesn’t understand why the IOC hasn’t already awarded a Winter Games to Salt Lake City.

“Ordinarily what they’re looking for in these times, I think, is some place safe to park the Olympics that you know things aren’t going to go badly wrong,” he said. “In that criteria, right, Salt Lake ought to be an easy selection.”

Related
2030 and 2034 Winter Games bid timeline: Counting down to the IOC’s decision on another Olympics for Utah
Should the IOC ‘grab Salt Lake City while it can’ to host the 2030 Winter Games?

But the professor said the IOC seems unwilling to settle on Salt Lake despite the advantages of holding a Games in the United States, which accounts for the lion’s share of broadcast and sponsor revenues.

“It’s a place that’s saying they want to do it again. They’ve done it before and even under challenging circumstances, there were no real problems,” Burbank said. The 2002 Games were the first major international event following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.

Plus, he said, the venues built for the Olympics more than two decades ago are still in use.

“So it seems like there are a lot of things that would just make you say, ‘Yeah, let’s get this deal inked. Whatever year you pick, you pick, right?’ Then you don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen” with other cities, at least for those Games, Burbank said.

He warned that Utahns may not always be so eager to bring back the Olympics. Especially as the state continues to wrestle with issues related to an ever-growing population, Burbank said it may not be realistic to look beyond 2034.

“I think if you get farther down that road in terms of future Games I do think there’s a greater possibility that Salt Lake decides this isn’t something that they need or want to do,” he said, giving up the chance of “playing on that Olympic stage.”

Utah bidders still confident of the ‘best outcome’

Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games that’s behind the bid, has made it clear the focus is exclusively on hosting in 2030 or 2034, not beyond.

“We actually like the ways things are unfolding with this delay because we believe it’s best for us and for the Olympic movement if we do 2034. Therefore, we like the fact that there’s more time to get a 2030 candidate if possible,” Bullock said.

Related
Can the IOC find a ‘good alternative’ to Salt Lake for the 2030 Winter Games?

Utah bidders hope to see a dual award of both the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games, similar to what the IOC did six years ago when Paris was picked to host next year’s Summer Games while the only other city in the race, Los Angeles, was given the 2028 Summer Games.

“That would give us the opportunity to lock in a future Games,” Bullock said, adding, “Bids are always fluid, but we believe if there is a 2030 candidate with a viable bid, we think we’re in a very good position for 2034.”

Salt Lake City has “a very strong bid from every aspect,” he said, and having more time between two Olympics held in the same country “is good for everybody so we feel confident that we’re a very attractive bid for 2034.”

Bullock, the chief operating officer of the 2002 Winter Games, said the IOC’s new timeline optimizes the chances of finding a “good candidate for 2030” so Salt Lake City can be “slotted in for 2034 hopefully. That’s the best outcome, we believe, for everyone.”