With Brisbane booked for the 2032 Olympics, are Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Mountains up next?

New Salt Lake City committee chairperson Raney Norman says, if it is for 2030, Utah is rarin’ to go

One might surmise that if your city or state’s slogan happens to be “Greatest Snow on Earth” you would immediately be slid to the front of the line to host the Olympic Winter Games.

It’s not that simple. There are dialogues to be had, reforms to be adhered to, and legacies to consider. Nevertheless, Salt Lake City’s push for the 2030, or 2034 Winter Games, could become the next priority for the IOC and its Future Host Commission.

Beautiful day for a halfpipe competition at the 2019 world championships in Park City (Brian Pinelli)
Beautiful day for a halfpipe competition at the 2019 world championships in Park City (Brian Pinelli)

Brisbane became the first Summer Games city to be awarded the Olympics as a direct result of the IOC’s new targeted dialogue process earlier this week, the reforms having been adopted in June 2019. Decisions about the 2030 Winter Games are up next. Considering that Australia received the right to host the Games in expedited fashion 11 years in advance of 2032, one could argue – at least excited skiers and opinionated snowboarders – that the IOC is now two years behind in choosing the next Winter Olympics and Paralympics host for 2030.

Four-time Olympian in speed skating Catherine Raney Norman was appointed as the new chair of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games at a June 9 governing board meeting. She will work alongside the bid’s chief executive officer Fraser Bullock.

While there are more moving parts then a modern, high-speed detachable quad chairlift, and further discussions with the United States Olympic and Paralympic committee and Los Angeles 2028 necessary, the IOC’s reformed process could accelerate faster than Olympic champion Ted Ligety carving a pair of GS skis. Raney Norman stresses that Salt Lake City and its Park City neighbor up the road are entirely prepared to wax their skis and lace up their skates should the IOC come knocking for 2030.

Four-time Olympian Catherine Raney Norman was named chair of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games on June 9 (Tom Kelly)
Four-time Olympian Catherine Raney Norman was named chair of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games on June 9 (Tom Kelly)

“We are ready, willing and able – that has been our line and it is very true,” Raney Norman tells Around the Rings, on a call while at her home between Salt Lake City and Park City. “We have hosted countless world championships, World Cups, and national championships, so we are prepared.

“We have a strong management team led by Fraser Bullock, so we have the knowledge, we understand the ins and outs, and we have incredible sports leaders.

“And we have the support of our community – one of the amazing things that came out of 2002 was that spirit of volunteerism,” Raney says, referring to Utah’s previous Winter Games, nearly 20 years ago.

As a 21-year-old athlete, Raney Norman competed at Salt Lake City 2002 in her second Olympic Games, on home ice, at Utah Olympic Oval in the 3,000 and 5,000-meter events.

It would seem plausible that with the USOPC’s guidance, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles 2028 could sort out any potential challenges involved with the U.S. hosting back-to-back Games. However, the commercial aspect is a bit more complex than Utah taking all ski equipment sponsorships and California surfboards.

“L.A. is a critical partner of ours and Janet Evans, who was one of my last in-person meetings before the world shut down, was just so lovely and helpful,” Raney Norman says, about the four-time U.S. Olympic swimming champion and L.A. 2028 chief athlete officer.

“We are definitely having dialogue and conversations with the USOPC and L.A. 2028 – we want to make sure that our next step and effort makes sense for everybody,” Raney Norman said.

Snowboard PGS at Park City Mountain Resort during the 2019 world championships (Pinelli)
Snowboard PGS at Park City Mountain Resort during the 2019 world championships (Pinelli)

Romanian IOC member Octavian Morariu is head of the Winter Games Future Host Commission, leading discussions between the IOC and potential candidates.

“I appreciate the fact that we can have this fluid interaction with the USOPC, the IOC and all of our stakeholders to determine the right timing and right fit for all parties involved,” Raney Norman said.

“Salt Lake City is the choice city for the next Winter Olympic Games here in the United States, so from now forward it’s determining when and we’ll definitely be starting those conversations again after Tokyo.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a decision here soon,” Raney Norman says, noting productive dialogue with USOPC leaders Sarah Hirshland and Susanne Lyons.

Salt Lake City’s opponents appear to be Barcelona-Pyrenees in Spain, and perhaps Sapporo, although 2030 now seems less realistic considering Japan’s massive effort staging the postponed Tokyo Games. The 2010 Winter Games host Vancouver might also come to the table.

Athletes First

Raney Norman’s sports administration credentials are impressive, including serving ten years on the USOPC’s Athletes Advisory Council, currently the co-chair with Paralympics skiing legend Chris Waddell.

Park City ski racer Ted Ligety was named to the SLC Committee governing board (ATR)
Park City ski racer Ted Ligety was named to the SLC Committee governing board (ATR)

One of her primary objectives is to strengthen Utah’s bid through athlete engagement. Ten new Olympic and Paralympic athletes, including U.S. short track speed skating eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno and the recently retired Park City skier Ligety, were also new additions to the committee last month.

“One of our core operating principles is athletes first and we are really utilizing the athletes at this time to really provide the insider’s perspective as to how we can enhance our Games on and off the field the play,” Raney Norman informs.

Waddell, a 12-time Paralympics skiing medalist and Park City local, reels off an avalanche of reasons as to why he believes the Games should return to Utah soon.

“Great snow, great weather, amazing volunteers, returning leadership from 2002, and world class venues already in existence, being used more now,” Waddell tells ATR.

Most recently, the Utah ski resorts were venues for the 2019 Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships, the state’s largest winter sports event since the 2002 Games. The only headache, depending upon one’s perspective and needs, was too much snow at times.

A winter-sized double award?

It is fun to imagine another double award for the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games considering that Paris and Los Angeles were presented the 2024 and 2028 Games by the IOC on the same day, just over four years ago.

While Raney Norman, an avid skier, and her Utah colleagues are certainly proud of their claim to “World’s Greatest Snow”, there are skiers from Japan and abroad that surely disagree. The abundant Japanese snowfall at ski resorts in Hokkaido, notably Niseko, about a two-hour drive southwest of Sapporo, is also among the world’s most desired.

Considering their mutual vast quantities of powder snow, perhaps Salt Lake City for 2030 and Sapporo in 2034?

“Maybe I’ll talk to the mayor and governor to see if we can be sister cities because when you talk to people in Utah they want to go skiing in Japan,” Raney Norman says, referring to Salt Lake City mayor Erin Mendenhall and new governor Spencer Cox, both of whom are engaged in the bid.

“The diehard skiers recognize that Japan has this amazing powder and vice-versa,” she said.

Whenever there is a massive dump of Utah’s fabulous and highly coveted, light powder snow, a mad rush of Park City and Utah locals to be first in the lift line follows.

Although there may be plentiful snow for all to enjoy, you can bet your priciest pair of powder skis that Raney Norman and the Salt Lake Committee are also doing their best to be first in line.

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