Tribune Editorial: Salt Lake City is good for the Olympics. It’s time to let the Olympics work for Salt Lake City.

This community needs — and deserves to — leverage our Olympic-level attractiveness into permanent upgrades to our community, upgrades that benefit all of us.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Members of the International Olympic Committee and U.S. Olympic & Paralympic leaders snap photos of the view, as they visit Snowbasin Ski Resort, on Friday, April 12, 2024.

Ask not what Salt Lake City can do for the Olympics. We already know. Ask what the Olympics can do for Salt Lake City.

A contingent of the International Olympic Committee visited Utah earlier this month to check out our existing infrastructure — physical and political — in advance of the increasingly likely possibility of awarding the 2034 Winter Games to Salt Lake City.

They liked what they saw. A lot. Enough that the official decision to return the games to Salt Lake City, Park City and environs after their successful turn here in 2002 may come as soon as July.

It’s not only that we still have many of the facilities built for 2002, but also that they have remained in use, kept up and ready to host the world’s best athletes again. And the political climate is such — one poll shows that 80% of Utahns want the games to return — that the IOC is confident another visit to our community will be a success.

Olympic officials are even floating the possibility that Salt Lake could become one of a small number of cities to rotate as Winter Games hosts. On a warming planet, there just aren’t that many places that have the most essential ingredient of all. Lots of snow.

All of that puts Utah and Salt Lake City in the co-pilot’s seat as plans are made and carried out.

Bluntly put, it is time for the people of Utah to ask, “What’s in it for us?” Not just for the length of the world’s visit, but afterward.

Ski jumping and ice hockey venues are a plus for our community. The signs and plaques and fountains and public art and cast-iron park benches with the Olympic logo scattered about are nice.

But what this community needs and deserves is to leverage our Olympic-level attractiveness into permanent upgrades to our community, upgrades that benefit all of us, including those who won’t go near an ice rink or snowboarding hill, during the games or after.

Clean the house and fix the toilet

The situation is like the inspiration to clean up a messy apartment before the in-laws visit. To finally fix the leaky toilet and cracked floor tiles before putting your house on the market. To do things that should have been done already but, by human nature, get put off until you know someone else is looking.

The looming return of the Olympics — 10 years is not that long — means that our community and state leaders should now be inspired to pay for and carry out some big-ticket, grand-vision things that we should have accomplished long ago.

The Utah Transit Authority has plans for expanding and upgrading its bus and rail services. Plans that include not only more needed TRAX service to and from Salt Lake International Airport and increasing frequency on the FrontRunner commuter rail line, but also ways to overcome chronic staffing shortages.

UTA officials are open about the fact that meeting the needs of Olympic visitors is key to getting these plans off the drawing board.

Utahns may also hope that their Legislature will do for a global audience what it hasn’t done for its own constituents. Rescue the Great Salt Lake, for example, and clean up our communities’ air, both of which matter for that annual snowfall that we and the IOC like so much.

That means things such as redoubled efforts to reduce diversions of water for agriculture and to block such air-fouling projects as a planned gravel pit in Parleys Canyon. (A project that offends the environmental sensibilities of even many of the mining company’s stockholders.)

And no infrastructure project in our communities should go forward without some serious thought given to our most acute need, a big increase in all levels of housing, especially for those who can’t dream of affording any of those luxury towers going up downtown.

The envisioned Olympic village, which officials say would include housing not just for athletes but also for some of their families, can and must be another way of turning fleeting Olympic glory into a permanently livable community.

Don’t let Sundance get away

Just as we are seeing that the Winter Olympics may be returning to Utah, we hear rumblings that the Sundance Film Festival may be going away.

It may be no more than some necessary due diligence, and/or a bargaining ploy to get better deals from local governments. But the people who run the annual intersection of Hollywood elites and up-and-coming filmmakers have put out the word that the current contracts expire after the 2026 event and that they are soliciting bids for a new home after that.

It’s no secret that the charm of the annual crush of visitors, jamming the streets and driving up prices, has worn off for many in Park City. Shifting more of the events down the canyon to Salt Lake City, which already hosts many of the screenings and other events, would be an obvious way to keep the festival, and its annual infusion of visitor dollars, here.

While it is not on the festival’s official list of concerns, local fans of Sundance must be aware that Utah’s recent flood of right-wing legislation — banning books, banning diversity programs in public schools and colleges, banning treatment for transgender youth, severely restricting abortion rights — is not on the positive side of the ledger for any creative enterprise looking for a home.

The same factors may also play a role in any decisions about Salt Lake City as a future home for the Winter Olympics after 2034 and other athletic events.

If Utah wants to welcome the world, it must be more obvious about welcoming all of it.