After more than a decade of trying, 2023 was the year when Utah appeared to have finally locked up another Olympics.

Salt Lake City was selected in late November by International Olympic Committee leaders as the preferred host for the 2034 Winter Games, and France’s French Alps bid advanced to the same status for 2030.

A final vote by the full IOC membership to award the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games is set for July, possibly on Utah’s Pioneer Day. Between now and then, both bids will have to detail plans as well as negotiate hosting contracts.

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That didn’t stop Gov. Spencer Cox, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and other bid leaders from celebrating the likely follow-up to the 2002 Winter Games with several hundred Utahns at a ceremony to relight the Olympic cauldron.

Retiring Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who led the 2002 Games, marked the announcement in a social media post, saying he’s looking “forward to what will surely be an inspiring demonstration of the best qualities of the human spirit.”

The Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games has already completed much of what must be submitted to the IOC during what’s known as the targeted dialogue phase of the IOC’s new bid process.

That includes all of the needed financial guarantees from local, state and federal officials to cover what would now be more than a $2.45 billion event, up from the most recent $2.2 billion estimate, according to the IOC’s feasibility assessment.

The IOC looked at both a potential 2030 or 2034 Olympics in Utah, but agreed with the bid committee’s preference for the later date to avoid competing for domestic sponsors with the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

The assessment, conducted by the IOC’s Future Host Commission that held virtual meetings with bid leaders and sent inspectors to the state, offered a number of details about the bid, including:

  • A bigger price tag. And because the bid committee’s proposed $2.45 billion operating budget is for a 2030 Games, the actual cost of hosting four years later would be even more due to inflation. That number remains to be seen, although the IOC noted “work is well advanced on a 2034 Games budget.”

But even though the bottom line has changed, the IOC pointed out the Games would still be “100% privately funded,” largely from the sale of sponsorships, broadcast rights and tickets, as they were in 2002.

  • Government and public support. Utah lawmakers approved legislation earlier this year spelling out that Cox would sign the “Games Delivery Guarantee” required by the IOC. That means the state’s taxpayers would have to step up if revenues fall short. Similar guarantees were made to underwrite the 2002 Games.

The federal government is set to once again provide security for the Games, expected to be designated as a “National Special Security Event,” just like in 2002. Other events with the same designation include Super Bowls and the L.A. Olympics.

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IOC polling in September found 80% of Utahns are in favor of hosting another Olympics, similar to a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll earlier in the year. The IOC reported the same 80% number for Salt Lake City and 65% for the U.S. as a whole.

  • No ‘significant Games-related capital investment’ required. All 2002 Games venues have been maintained “at world-class levels,” with more than a half-billion dollars spent on improvements and upgrades, the IOC said. More than $140 million of that spending may end up coming from Utah taxpayers.

The list of venues for a 2034 Games will look familiar to anyone who remembers the last Olympics in Utah, including the University of Utah as the site for opening and closing ceremonies as well as the athletes village.

Also on the list are Utah Olympic Park near Park City; Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns; Soldier Hollow Nordic Center in Wasatch Mountain State Park near Midway; Snowbasin, Deer Valley and Park City resorts; Delta Center; Maverick Center; and ice rinks in Ogden and Provo.

  • Hosting a ‘catalyst’ for Utah goals. The IOC cited renewing funding for the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation that owns the Utah Olympic Park and continues to operate it and other 2002 venues along with other key “community priorities/development plans.”

The assessment described those as using 100% renewable energy by 2030, cutting carbon emissions, accelerating adoption of public transportation, and bringing communities together through diversity, equity, inclusion and access.

All are seen as aligned with the bid committee’s vision for the Olympics and Paralympics that follow, which calls for leveraging hosting to elevate communities, sport and the Games experience itself.

Communities are elevated by using the event “as a platform to achieve transformational and sustainable change”; sports by expanding participation; and the Games experience by delivering an “exceptional” event, especially for athletes and their families.

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Fraser Bullock and Erin Mendenhall cheer as Salt Lake City is named the preferred host for the 2034 Olympics.
Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall cheer as Salt Lake City is named the preferred host for the 2034 Olympics during a “watch party” at the Salt Lake City and County Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News