The International Olympic Committee’s final vote on whether the 2034 Winter Games come to Salt Lake City is still months away, but Gov. Spencer Cox is already considering the prospects of Utah becoming a permanent host.

There’s talk that “over the course of the next few years, the IOC will make a decision to kind of have a set group of cities that host the Olympics so that every 20 years, maybe, or every 16, we come back to these host cities, and that Salt Lake City will be one of those,” the governor said Thursday during the taping of his monthly PBS Utah news conference.

“I can envision one where you have an Asian Winter Games, European Winter Games and North American Winter Games. And then maybe you have a new city every fourth time, something like that,” Cox explained. “And if that’s the case, I think Salt Lake City would be well-positioned.”

Related
Here’s what the IOC says the Paris Olympics offers in ‘dark times’

It’s been more than a year since IOC leaders delayed a decision on advancing Winter Games bids to take a closer look at how climate change is impacting the event held once every four years, a discussion that includes the possibility of rotating the Winter Games among “a certain pool” of cities and regions.

Since then, the IOC Executive Board named Salt Lake City, site of the 2002 Winter Games, the “preferred host” for the 2034 Winter Games, and gave France’s French Alps bid the same designation for 2030. Another Winter Games bidder, Switzerland, is now in a new, exclusive “privileged dialogue” for 2038.

Having a lineup of potential hosts for the next three Winter Games has slowed down any decision from the IOC about setting up a Winter Games rotation, said Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games that’s behind Salt Lake City’s bid.

“There’s no urgency to address this issue,” Bullock said, noting the IOC “started that work but then, given the significant interest in hosting Winter Games that was expressed by several countries, they have delayed that study.” The race for an upcoming Winter Games also included Sweden as well as Sapporo, Japan, and Vancouver, Canada.

Just when the IOC takes up the issue again is up to them, Bullock said, suggesting that may come before the 2034 Winter Games.

“Long term, there needs to be ways to address climate change and maintain the strength of the Winter Games,” the bid leader said, adding that when it comes to rotating the event, “the IOC may very well decide to engage in that discussion before our Games. To me that makes sense.”

What any IOC plan to rotate the Winter Games among a group of permanent hosts deemed climate compatible might look like also remains to be seen, including whether bids from other cities and regions would continue to be considered, as the governor suggested.

“There are many ideas out there,” Bullock said. “Over the next many years, many ideas with be analyzed for strengths and weakness. At this point it’s too early to tell but there is a need to have stability in the face of climate as well as opportunity for other potential hosts.”

Although Bullock said he personally sees being part of a Winter Games rotation as a “great ambition” for Utah, there would need to be “extensive community dialogue before seeking a spot.

“I think many of us are of the same opinion, but it would be great to have that discussion with the Legislature, with community leaders and many others,” he said. “Most are leaning that way but to have a process of a dialogue is always a healthy approach.”

Related
Reports that Brisbane looked at giving back the 2032 Summer Games called ‘fake news’ by IOC

The governor said the state “has all the facilities now. We could host the Olympics next year if we had to and that changes the equation,” when asked about the benefits of hosting an event that has not always attracted many bidders. Cox said that’s due to the costs of the needed venues, such as the sliding track, ski jumps and speed skating oval Utah has maintained since 2002.

“I promise you that if every country had the infrastructure that we have, they would see it as a smart investment,” the governor said. “The reason that some countries have decided not to do it is because they have to build all of these venues. And that’s very expensive, and then the venues don’t get used, and they end up getting torn down. And that’s clearly a waste.”

There’s “tremendous public support” for the Olympics in Utah, Cox said, with a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll showing more than 80% of Utahns back the bid. He said, “In large part because of that, these venues do get used all of the time and we’re very lucky to be the North American capital of winter sports. And that will continue.”

Next month, the IOC’s Future Host Commission will visit Utah for a venue tour in advance of making a report on the bids to IOC leaders in June. It will be up to the IOC Executive Board to recommend then whether there’s a vote of the full membership on Salt Lake City’s bid for 2034, anticipated at an annual meeting in Paris on July 24, a date celebrated as Pioneer Day in Utah.

“Hopefully on July 24, we’ll be in Paris signing on the dotted line. That’s what we’re looking forward to,” the governor said, calling another Olympics an opportunity to invest in the state’s infrastructure, as was done for the 2002 Games. “If everything goes well, then we can bring everybody together and say, ‘OK, we’ve got 10 years, what do we want to look like in 10 years?’”