A committee preparing a bid for Salt Lake City to host a future Winter Olympics has watched closely as the coronavirus pandemic upended carefully crafted plans and postponed the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. But members said this week that their desire to bring the Olympics back to Utah in 2030 or 2034 is unwavering.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of the risks that come with hosting the Olympics, but also offers an opportunity to learn valuable lessons from how Tokyo and Beijing organizers adapt, said Salt Lake City committee CEO Fraser Bullock.
Bullock was a key player in the team that organized Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympics that had to overcome a bribery scandal and reshape security plans after the 9/11 attacks.
“Risk is part of any Olympics Games and it’s very much integrated into the planning,” Bullock said. “But this is a different dimension. . . . We have to broaden our sights in terms of potential risk that could happen, which we’ve done.”
He added: “It hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm. It recommits us to be able to bring the world together.”
The pandemic is also expected to delay when the International Olympic Committee will choose hosts for the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympics, said Salt Lake City committee chair Cindy Crane.
The IOC is consumed with reshaping the Tokyo Games, now planned to start in July 2021, and preparing for the 2022 Bejing Winter Olympics, she said.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the IOC abandoned its old practice of awarding Olympics every two years and seven years ahead of when the games are held.
“With this new process there really are no timelines,” said Crane, adding that the Salt Lake committee hasn’t set any internal deadlines either to finish the bid. “Until there is clarity on …. what we’re bidding for and a reasonably known timeline we are not setting hard and fast deadlines.”
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee chose Salt Lake City two years ago over Denver and Reno, Nevada, as the next U.S. city to bid for a Winter Olympics, but hasn’t chosen which year it wants Utah to pursue.
Sapporo, Japan, has said it will bid for the 2030 Games and Los Angeles has already been chosen to host the 2028 Summer Olympics — factors that could lead Salt Lake City to bid for 2034.
The Salt Lake City committee and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee recently sent letters to the IOC reiterating Salt Lake City’s desire and committee to host another Winter Olympics.
They promoted Salt Lake City as fitting perfectly under the IOC’s new blueprint called “Agenda 2020” for future Olympic sites to spend less on new venues and infrastructure.
Utah has estimated it could host the games for about $1.4 billion, a figure that would be far less than other cities since Utah would use venues built in 2002 that have been maintained.
“A future Salt Lake City Games will be able to focus more on innovation rather than large capital projects,” wrote U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee Chair Susanne Lyons and CEO Sarah Hirshland in the Oct. 30 letter to IOC President Thomas Bach.
Bach responded that the IOC has “great memories” of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and will maintain dialogue with promoters of Salt Lake City’s effort, according to a copy of the Nov. 3 letter provided Tuesday by Utah organizers.
“It is also very promising to see that the project to bring future Olympic Winter Games to Salt Lake City enjoys political support at all levels and has such high public support,” Bach wrote.
He didn’t provide any timeline for choosing future host cities in the letter.
Hirshland of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said during Tuesday’s meeting: “There is no need to be concerned about timing. We are on track, we are well-positioned.”