The Olympic aspirations of Denver and Reno have not been hurt by the possibility Salt Lake City may bid to stage another Winter Games a decade from now.
That’s what leaders of Olympic groups in the two cities — one 500 miles east of Salt Lake City, the other 500 miles west — said after this week’s announcement that an exploratory committee has been formed to consider whether Utah should try to duplicate the luster of the 2002 Games in, perhaps, 2022 or 2026.
Those are the next two Winter Olympics whose host cities will be determined in coming years by the International Olympic Committee.
“The more the Olympics can be promoted in different cities and regions, the better,” said Jon Killoran, chief executive of the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition.
And Anne Warhover, co-chairwoman of a 22-member committee examining the possibility of a Denver bid, responded only that Salt Lake City’s entry into the field “confirms that there is a lot of interest in the Olympics. It’s validating that other American cities are interested in it.”
Both stressed a key point that Gov. Gary Herbert made in announcing the creation of a 14-member committee to look at whether Utah should go for the Games again: The U.S. Olympic Committee will not advance an American city as a candidate for any Games, winter or summer, until a dispute with the IOC over the division of broadcast and sponsorship revenue is resolved.
While negotiators for both organizations said they made “good progress” in mid-January talks, an agreement has not been reached. For the U.S. to compete for 2022, a settlement must come in the next year so USOC officials would have time to invite applications, select a candidate and submit that city’s name to the IOC by September 2013. The IOC will make its selection in 2015.
“We’re patient,” said Killoran, whose nonprofit organization was created in 2003 to carry Reno-Tahoe’s Olympic dreams and to showcase the area’s potential as a winter-sports destination. “We’ll promote the Olympic movement in our region and prepare ourselves in the eventuality that a bid possibility arises.”
Denver’s Olympic ambitions are not nearly as advanced — and the city has to overcome the stigma having been awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics, only to reject them later.
“We’re very much in the ‘if’ stage,” Warhover said. “We’re nowhere close to where you guys [in Utah] seem to be. We’re just starting.”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock asked her committee to evaluate costs, venue alternatives and other issues in a report due in late March or early April.
Warhover acknowledged Salt Lake City has an advantage because of its existing Olympic facilities, all of which remain in use.
Utah’s post-Games use of its 2002 venues also impressed Killoran, who noted that “the phrase ‘no white elephants’ is used a lot in Olympic circles.” In that respect, he added, Reno-Tahoe is positioned to take advantage of infrastructure developed for the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics and the tourism industry that grew thereafter in the mountains around Lake Tahoe.
But that infrastructure does not include some of the most expensive venues required for an Olympics — a bobsled/luge track, ski jumps and a speedskating oval — facilities hard-pressed to be self-sustaining after a Games.
Salt Lake City boosters have expressed doubt the U.S. Olympic movement could derive any benefits from building duplicate facilities in either Denver or Reno.
While the USOC is not talking about bids yet, former spokesman Mike Moran opined that Utah’s interest in another bid reflects highly on the state of the Olympic movement in the U.S.
“Salt Lake City wants to do it again in 2022. Denver has a team in place to explore its exciting options. Reno-Tahoe is chomping at the bit,” Moran said. “You don’t need an MRI to figure out that the Olympic spirit is alive and well in the United States.”
He is uncertain when the IOC-USOC revenue dispute will be resolved. But when it is, Moran said, “a bid will come sooner than later, rest assured. And it will be successful.”
Olympic host cities
When the Summer Olympics are held July 27 through Aug. 12, London will be the first city to have staged the Games three times (2012, 1948 and 1908). Five others have been hosts twice:
Athens • 2004 and 1896
St. Moritz • 1948 and 1928
Lake Placid • 1980 and 1932
Los Angeles • 1984 and 1932
Innsbruck • 1976 and 1964