It may just be considered the “dialogue phase” but judging by the large contingent of Salt Lake City Olympic bid officials and supporters visiting the Olympic capital this week, it’s evident the stakes are high.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach is welcoming a group including Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games CEO Fraser Bullock, who served as chief operating officer when Salt Lake City hosted the Olympics in 2002, chairwoman and speed skating four-time Olympian Catherine Raney Norman, bid consultant Darren Hughes, Utah Governor Spencer Fox’s special advisor Nubia Peña, as well as retired ski racer Lindsey Vonn.
Also making the trip on behalf of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) are CEO Sarah Hirshland and chairwoman Suzanne Lyons. The primary meeting of the visit occurred on Wednesday in Lausanne, Switzerland with Future Games Hosts director Jacqueline Barret leading the IOC contingent as work continues to select a host city for the 2030 Winter Olympics, and possibly 2034 also.
It marks the first time Utah bid officials are formerly meeting with Bach and members of the IOC’s Future Games Host Commission. Previous meetings were canceled because of travel hurdles related to the pandemic, although a small group from the IOC came to Salt Lake City and the neighboring Wasatch Mountains for a low-key, technical visit to proposed venues in April.
Vonn, who is now residing in Park City, posted on her social media earlier this week: “Next stop Switzerland! Proud to be on the Executive Board for the Salt Lake City Olympic bid.” The retired Alpine ski racer added: “Looking forward to this opportunity to try and bring the Winter Olympics back to Salt Lake. Wish us luck.”
The key meeting on Wednesday was primarily expected to deal with proposed details, plans and venues of the bid with a proposed price tag of $2.2 billion. Numerous venues utilized during the 2002 Games, including Utah Olympic Park, Soldier Hollow and the Olympic Oval, all managed by the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, are all part of plans for 2030 or beyond.
A decision on a host city for the 2030 Winter Games is potentially expected to come by the end of 2022, and then would have to be officially confirmed by IOC members in May 2023. As was the case with Paris and Los Angeles at the Lausanne IOC Session in September 2017, it seems plausible that host cities for both 2030 and 2034 could be named.
A significant obstacle standing in the Salt Lake City bid’s path, are domestic sponsorship challenges that need to be figured out in cooperation with LA28 and the USOPC, in addition to swaying the IOC to award consecutive Olympics to the U.S. However, it appears to be a very solvable issue, especially given the IOC’s more relaxed guidelines with a revamped bidding procedure which produced Brisbane, Australia as future host of the 2032 Summer Games, nearly ten years in advance.
Salt Lake City’s number one opponent appears to be Sapporo, Japan, also seeking a return of the Winter Games to snowy Hokkaido, some 58 years after it previously hosted in 1972.
However, Vancouver, Canada remains in the fight and made a significant push on Tuesday, as the Canadian Olympic Committee’s feasibility team revealed the official venue concept and additional bid plans for potential 2030 Games, now known as BC 2030.
The media-friendly unveiling took place at Whistler Mountain, the site of Alpine skiing events when the western Canadian city previously hosted the Games in 2010. With leaders of the region’s Indigenous tribes present, the Games are being touted by Canadian media as potentially, the first-ever Indigenous-led Olympics.
Follow Brian on Twitter - @Brian_Pinelli