Utah could join rotating pool of Winter Games hosts under new proposal | AspenTimes.com

Utah could join rotating pool of Winter Games hosts under new proposal

International Olympic Committee considers solutions amid climate change, delays 2030 decision

Toria Barnhart
Park Record
Crowds gather during the 2002 Winter Olympics. The legacy of the Games remains strong in Park City.
Park Record/Archive photo

PARK CITY, Utah — Utah is being considered as a host for either the 2030 or 2034 Winter Olympics, but what if the state doesn’t have to go another 30 years without the Games if they are awarded?

That could be the reality under a new proposal from the International Olympic Committee as the group reconsiders its approach to the Winter Games. The IOC met on Dec. 6, when members discussed how climate change could create challenges in the future and ways to overcome the problem.

The idea of rotating a pool of Winter Olympics host cities was among the solutions — and Utah is among the likely contenders.

Fraser Bullock, the president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, said a rotating schedule makes sense because the number of cities capable of hosting the Winter Olympics is reduced. Under the proposal, host cities need to show an average temperature of or below freezing for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

“Utah, by virtue of the cold temperatures in February, seems to be a candidate that could fit that rotation. Of course, there’s a lot of discussion on if we’d want to do that in the first place: to have Games every 20 years or not,” he said. “That’s something that’s a community decision. Longer term, this kind of decision would not be made for several years so there’s plenty of time to assess that.”

Bullock was open to rotating cities because of the positive impact it could have on the sports legacy statewide. He said winter competitions, such as the World Cup, are regularly held in Utah and embellish its ranking as a “state of sport.” 

“It also, economically, gives a boost every 16 to 20 years to inject funding into the sport movement both for our kids, our communities, our local athletes, as well as international athletes to come and train and compete here,” Bullock said.

He indicated those involved in Utah’s second bid still need to look at long-term climate change and the length of time Salt Lake City and the surrounding area can serve as a viable host. That process has already begun. 

As the IOC prepares to continue its own discussions about climate change, the group will delay the decision about 2030 for at least another year to examine all options.

Bullock admitted he hoped for a decision in 2023 but said it was a wise move by the IOC and an effort to help keep winter sports sustainable.

“They will not award the 2030 Games next year to have more time to put together their strategic assessment. That’s certainly a disappointment to us … but on the other hand, they opened the door to a dual award of the 2030 and 2034 Games, which will most likely come in 2024,” he said. 

Bullock continued, “Given that we slightly prefer 2034 — because back-to-back Games with L.A. and ‘30 would be challenging — that gives us a lot of optimism because we could potentially be awarded the 2034 Games earlier than anticipated. That would be a fantastic outcome for us, if we were so fortunate.”

The dual award is one possibility discussed by the IOC to help create stability for winter sports and the Winter Games, but a formal decision was not made. Bullock said Utah will have plenty of time to prepare if both games are awarded in 2024.

The state is one of two places that still use 100% of its Olympic venues and marketing rights can’t be awarded until after the 2028 Summer Olympics, which means there isn’t much work to be done before the Winter Games.

“The good news is we would have very little spend in the early years because we have the venues in place, we have the people in place,” Bullock said. “It would be more of an opportunity to engage with the communities to understand what’s important to you out of these games, such as sustainability, and what can we do to move the needle and use the leverage of the Olympic Games to facilitate those highly important objectives? Not only is it important for our communities, but it’s also important for the sustainability of winter sport.”

Vancouver, Canada, is the other city and another potential host for the 2030 Olympics. However, the provincial government of British Columbia no longer backs the bid — essentially leaving Salt Lake City and Sapporo, Japan, as the current candidates.

Park City and Summit County residents were invited to participate in a community conversation series, facilitated by city and county officials, about the Olympic efforts this fall. Many people seemed open to hosting a second Games, but had concerns about impacts on Parkites’ quality of life. There were limited, if any, discussions about rotating hosts.

Summit County is expected to play a crucial role in a future Games with Park City Mountain, Deer Valley Resort and the Utah Olympic Park designated as competition venues.



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