Cost, corruption and the threat of terrorism. Can hosting the Olympics possibly be worth the trouble?
As Russians make frenzied last-minute preparations for the Sochi Olympics, Utahns who once endured the same doubts widely believe that the Salt Lake City Winter Games of 12 years ago were a boon to the state.
A survey of 1,622 Utahns conducted Jan. 23-25 by Dan Jones & Associates and the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business found that 92 percent of Utahns believe the state benefited from the international spotlight, and 82 percent hope the torch will be lit here anew.
More specifically, 47 percent said Utah strongly benefited from the Olympics, 45 percent said Utah benefited, 6 percent said the Games had a net zero effect on the state, and 1 percent felt the Games hurt the state.
Only 9 percent of Utahns oppose a return of the Winter Olympics — 3 percent strongly so.
David Eccles School of Business Associate Dean Natalie Gochnour said the survey was the result of a long-term partnership with Dan Jones & Associates in which they will gauge consumer sentiment on a range of issues each month. With questions looming about Sochi’s Games, the timing was right to ask about hosting another Olympics.
“I do believe that hosting a games is just an incredibly serious endeavor,” Gochnour said. But she says results show that Utahns have the will for it, and history proves the state capable. “Our city is very well tailored to host a large event. The accessibility, and the infrastructure can handle it. I think having hosted a games before would only boost our confidence.”
Along party lines, 96 percent of Republicans, compared to 89 percent of Democrats, say the games benefited Utahns. There is a 14-point margin between the GOP (88) and Dems (74) on whether Utah should bid for another Olympics.
Interestingly, says Cicero Group CEO Randy Shumway, residents who have lived in Utah for less than 11 years were even more disposed to support a future bid. “What this study shows is that 12 years later, even residents who weren’t here during the Olympics still see the residual positive impact.”
In October 2012, the Utah Olympic Exploratory Committee recommended that Salt Lake City bid for the 2026 Winter Games. According to the report, another Olympics would result in an economic jolt of $5 billion in direct and indirect output, 30,000 job years of employment and $75 million in state and local-government tax revenues.
— Salt Lake Tribune reporter Mike Gorrell contributed to this story.