The competition to win the right to host the 2030 Olympic Winter Games will largely play out behind closed doors, potentially involving five candidates, as the future winter host will be determined, for the first time, through the IOC’s reformed selection process.
Ukraine became the latest country to throw its hat into the ring last weekend, joining Salt Lake City, Vancouver, Sapporo and Barcelona-Pyrenees among those who appear to be serious in their attempts to land the Winter Games in 2030.
Salt Lake City (2002), Vancouver (2010) and Sapporo (1972) have all hosted Winter Olympics. Barcelona hosted the 1992 Summer Games. Ukraine seeks to win the bid for a first Games.
So where do all of the bids stand at this point? Let’s take a look, starting with the new kid on the block.
IOC president Thomas Bach welcomed Ukraine into the dialogue phase of the procedure, following communications and substantial interest expressed by Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev this weekend, at a celebration of the eastern European country’s 30-year anniversary in the Olympic movement.
While a date for a meeting with the IOC in Lausanne has yet to be scheduled, Ukraine NOC president Sergey Bubka tells Around the Rings that the plan is to take advantage of the IOC’s Agenda 2020+5 reforms, allowing for greater flexibility and freedom with bids from potential host cities and countries.
The Ukraine NOC expresses interest in both 2030 and 2034, although the former appears to be a lofty bar for Bubka and company to clear considering continuing interest from the other four viable candidates. At the same time, it seems that there is still no clear-cut favorite, a situation which could bode well for Ukraine seeking to host its first ever Olympic Games, summer or winter.
The Ukrainian city of Lviv was a candidate to host the 2022 Winter Games, but withdrew in 2014 due to a political and security crisis in the country at the time. The IOC awarded Beijing the Games over Almaty, Kazakhstan in 2015.
Romanian IOC member Octavian Morariu is head of the Winter Games Future Host Commission, leading discussions between the IOC and the potential candidates.
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City and its neighboring Park City ski areas and venues hope to capitalize on the legacy and success from 2002, a Winter Games that overcame security fears and uncertainty in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
The state slogan is “World’s Greatest Snow”, a moniker that would seem to help its chances for 2030 or 2034. The decision on which Games to bid on has yet to be made. A 2030 bid appears to hinge on whether commercial aspects related to hosting can be ironed out with Los Angeles 2028 and the USOPC.
“We are ready, willing and able – that has been our line and it is very true,” says Catherine Raney-Norman, a four-time Olympic speed skater and chair of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games. “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.
Utah’s Olympic ski resorts – Park City and Deer Valley – continue to host major events, while Utah Olympic Park, the Soldier Hollow cross-country skiing and biathlon venue and the Olympic speed skating oval are overseen by the Utah Olympic Venue Legacy Foundation. In February, Soldier Hollow will host the Youth and Junior Biathlon World Championships.
Utah Olympic Venue Legacy Foundation chief of sport development Luke Bodensteiner says the region is still benefiting from a $40 million surplus from 2002.
“The mandate that we were given by the state of Utah when we inherited the profits of the 2002 Games, which are in an endowment, that continue to assist the funding for the three venues that we operate now, to maintain the venues at world class levels and use them for elite athlete training and bring competitions to Utah, which we still do today,” Bodensteiner tells Around the Rings.
Upon conclusion of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto encouraged a potential bid from Sapporo for the 2030 Games, following a fluctuation of its previous momentum considering Japan’s herculean task of staging the Summer Games during the pandemic.
“In 2030 with Sapporo we have definitely got the candidate for the Winter Games,” Hashimoto said. “I would hope this would become a reality.”
Sapporo mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto praised residents for the smooth running of the Olympic marathons and race walk events in the Hokkaido capital, having indicated the city may review its plan to host the 2030 Winter Games.
Sapporo, the site of the 1972 Winter Olympics, could return to the race for 2030, perhaps with a revised plan.
“We are thoroughly discussing what a sustainable Olympics should be and reviewing some parts of the plan,” Akimoto told reporters last month.
However, it could once again become a slippery slope, as Akimoto said his city plans to survey residents about their opinions on whether Sapporo should host the Winter Games.
The mayor noted that he met Bach after the women’s marathon on Aug. 7. “He told me that we showed we are capable of hosting not only a Winter Olympics but also a Summer Games,” Akimoto said.
Similar to its potential fellow rivals Salt Lake City and Sapporo, Vancouver could take advantage of existing venues and slopes, and build upon its legacy from just 11 years ago. However, the British Columbia city says it won’t lead the bid process, leaving the workload up to the Canadian Olympic Committee.
The COC continues to express significant interest, initially declaring that it would not fully dedicate itself to the bid until after the Tokyo 2020 Games.
However, the COC now says its focus is on preparing Beijing 2022 and it will most likely not get around to the bid until next year. Vancouver, and not Quebec City, will be Canada’s candidate of choice.
“When we resume our Olympic bid activities, Vancouver will be the only option considered for a potential bid for the Winter Games,” wrote David Shoemaker, the CEO of the COC, in a February 2021 letter, translated from French to English.
“As indicated previously, our analysis of conditions in various Canadian cities conducted in 2020, which was complemented by consultation with the Canadian sport community, governments and Games experts, informed this decision.”
John Furlong, the former organizing committee leader from the 2010 Games, says that a process of finding a local government in British Columbia is ongoing, while taking a more regional approach to partner with the bid as a host city and to facilitate use of venues. However, an appropriate suitor has yet to be found compounded by Canadian elections being held next week.
A Spanish bid from Barcelona and the mountainous Pyrenees region to its south could also seek to take advantage of IOC reforms sharing the Games with neighboring Andorra and France. Andorra has held women’s World Cup ski races over recent years, while Grenada and its nearby Sierra Nevada mountains have played host to the FISU Winter Universiade.
However, there are multiple challenges and scenarios to overcome for the non-traditional winter sports city. The potential bid has been drawn into the long-running consideration of Catalonian independence.
Catlonia president Pere Aragones said he believes a referendum on making Catalonia an independent nation would be held by the end of the 2020′s.
“We want Catalonia to vote in a recognized way and, if it is done before 2030, it will be the first Games in which we participate under our own flag,” Aragones said in a television interview in at the end of August.
Adding to the complexity surrounding the bid, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau has demanded a referendum for her city regarding the city’s involvement since Aragones announced a regional bid in July.
However, as Beijing will become the first city to host both Winter and Summer Games, it would seem likely that IOC member and Beijing 2022 Coordination Commission chair Juan Antonio Samaranch would like to see his country follow China’s lead.
The IOC has yet to issue any timeframe as to when the 2030 host may be selected.