It's time to rekindle the fire within. Salt Lake City should make a bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
After all, Utah has done this before, staging perhaps the most successful Winter Olympics ever in 2002. Many of the reasons for that success remain. Utah's capital city still offers something that few other bidders anywhere else can match: real-city amenities and transportation systems within close proximity to world-class skiing.
The venues built for the 2002 games would have to be upgraded or rebuilt for 2022, but they already exist.
More important, Utahns know what it takes to host the games. The institutional memory survives. And Utahns still are aglow with memories of the 2002 games. They would volunteer again to make the games a success. By 2022, however, a whole new generation of Utahns could carry the torch, literally as well as figuratively.
People still debate the true legacy of the 2002 Games and how much good it did for the state. But there's little question that it gave the Beehive State a shining 16 days in the international spotlight that changed Utah's reputation in the world for the better. There's also little doubt that the money the games pumped into the local economy helped Utah.
That said, state business and government leaders cannot seriously consider a bid for 2022 until the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee resolve their current dispute about division of revenues. Until that is settled, no bid is possible, because its outcome will determine the finances of future games.
There would be other differences the second time around. In the long run-up to Utah winning the bid for 2002, state taxpayers voted $59 million to finance construction of several winter sports facilities. They all had to be rebuilt for the actual games, but they proved that Utah was serious about its aspirations. The second time, that would not be necessary. The IOC already knows what Utah can do.
That does not foreclose the possibility that public funds would be necessary to pre-games construction, but at this point that's hard to project. In any case, Utahns know from their past experience that if the games are well-managed, the taxpayers stand to get their up-front investment back and then some.
Critics can say that where the Winter Olympics are concerned, Utah has been there and done that, and there's little new to be gained the second time around. Perhaps. But it certainly would benefit Utah to place itself on the world stage again for a new generation, and the boost to the local economy would be undeniable. Utah should go for the gold.
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