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Why Utah’s Olympic bidders are already finishing a pile of paperwork reserved for ‘preferred hosts’

IOC leaders may advance their picks for 2030, 2034 Winter Games at the end of the year

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The Utah Olympic Park is pictured in Park City on May 4, 2023.

The Utah Olympic Park is pictured in Park City on Thursday, May 4, 2023. Utah’s bid team says paperwork for a future Winter Olympic Games is almost completed.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

All of the mountains of paperwork required to finalize a deal to host the 2030 or 2034 Winter Games are nearly completed, Utah’s bid team says, even though it may be months before International Olympic Committee leaders pick their preferred hosts.

That’s when bid cities are expected to start putting together their responses to the IOC’s 39-page “Future Host Questionnaire” and seven pages of required guarantees, under the new, less formal process for selecting Olympic hosts.

But the IOC Executive Board isn’t likely to name its picks for 2030 and 2034 until the end of the year, after last December’s decision to delay advancing any bid cities to what’s known as “targeted dialogue,” to negotiate a contract to host an Olympics.

And a final vote by the full IOC isn’t anticipated until next year, just before the start of the 2024 Summer Games in Paris. The growing list of contenders includes Sapporo, Japan; and Vancouver, Canada; as well as potential bids from Sweden, Switzerland and France.

So does getting all that the paperwork done in advance signal Salt Lake City is all but guaranteed to get another Winter Games?

“There’s nothing to read into this,” Fraser Bullock, the president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games told reporters after the “Preferred Host” documents, spreadsheets and contracts were approved at a closed-door meeting Wednesday.

The IOC won’t even see the entire submission until after the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee signs off on it, he said. That’s coming at an annual meeting set to be held in Los Angeles, the site of the 2028 Summer Games, in September.

“We have to go through all the steps,” Bullock said.

The IOC has been meeting monthly with Utah bidders and conducting workshops on budget, technology, sustainability, governance, marketing, ticketing and other topics related to hosting.

“This is a partnership where they’re giving us input for our future host submission, assuming we’re invited into a targeted dialogue,” he said, later adding, “They’re talking to many cities right now and they’re giving them the same workshops, the same advice.”

Salt Lake City, host of the 2002 Winter Games, is bidding to host again in 2030 or 2034. The preference continues to be the later date, to avoid any financial fallout from back-to-back Olympics in the United States.

The IOC knows what Utah’s bid team wants, Bullock said.

“They’re working hard with potential European candidates to bring them to the table,” he said. “None of this has anything to do with targeted dialogue at this point in time. It’s just helping us get ready for the day when we may enter targeted dialogue.”

The IOC has declined to name the contenders for a Winter Games or how many places are bidding. Bullock said Utah bidders find out the same way the media does, through announcements and news reports.

“The thing we need to recognize about bids is they are very fluid. Things will always change. There are always surprises. And that’s OK,” he said. “That’s part of the process. What we do is we focus on putting the best bid forward, staying ahead of the process.”

At this point, the bid team said the IOC questionnaire is 90% complete and additional graphics, sustainability studies and financial information that must be submitted are 75% done.

There are also agreements in place for 75% of venues and 78% of accommodations, about 24,000 hotel rooms. Also secured to date are 70% of the needed marketing rights and government guarantees, including everything required from state and local officials.

During Wednesday’s public meeting of the larger bid committee, the focus was on the vision for another Olympics in Utah, centered around elevating communities, sport and the Games experience, for athletes and their families as well as for spectators.

Part of the vision is providing the first-ever “Athlete Family Village.” Housing for an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 family members of Olympians from around the world is proposed to be located at the University of Utah, just outside the secured Athletes Village.

Bullock said more details of the submission to the IOC will be made public, such as a breakdown of the budget, estimated to be more than $2.2 billion coming largely from the sale of sponsorships, broadcast rights and tickets, but not state or local taxpayers.

“You saw the most important part today, which is the vision. That’s the purpose. That’s the foundation. Everything flows from that,” he told reporters, adding, “There’s a lot of technical stuff that frankly, you’re not going to care about but it’s robust and it’s there.”