Utah will bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2030 — but the state may get to make its case for welcoming the world again even sooner.
If the U.S. Olympic Committee decides by March 31 to pursue the 2026 Winter Games — and designates Salt Lake City as its “interested” city — advisers recommended Wednesday that Utah should establish a candidature committee to pursue the opportunity.
“We are in a great, tremendous position to host the Winter Olympics again,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said before the Utah Olympic/Paralympic Exploratory Committee voted unanimously to encourage Salt Lake City and the state to go for whichever Games is available. “We did it once. We can certainly do it twice.”
Utahns seem to agree, with 83 percent of residents statewide saying they support Salt Lake City seeking to host the 2030 Games, according to a new poll for The Salt Lake Tribune and the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.
Utahns of all kinds are behind an effort to bring the Olympics back to the state
A new poll shows substantial support for efforts by Salt Lake City and the state to play host to the Winter Olympics in 2030 or, if need be, in 2026. An exploratory committee made that recommendation Wednesday, when Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution the Legislature passed the day before to support a bid.
Source: Dan Jones & Associates talked to 803 registered Utah voters from Jan. 15 to 18. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.
The exploratory committee had previously determined it would cost about $1.29 billion for Utah to again host the Games — less than the $1.389 billion tab for 2002.
The USOC has until the end of March to submit a bid city for the International Olympic Committee’s next round of selections, which is seeking a host city for the 2026 Winter Games.
But since the IOC recently made a dual award of upcoming Summer Olympics — giving 2024 to Paris and 2028 to Los Angeles — Utah’s Olympic leaders anticipate a similar approach may be used to pick sites for the 2026 and 2030 Winter Games.
To be in the running for 2030, that means the USOC would have to enter Salt Lake City into the 2026 race.
State Sen. President Wayne Niederhauser said earlier that bidding for 2026 may be difficult because Los Angeles already has the 2028 Summer Games and “has the rights to all sponsorships” for the Olympics through then.
Still, “we need to be part of that process,” said Fraser Bullock, the 2002 Olympics executive and co-chairman of the exploratory committee with Niederhauser and Utah Sports Commission Executive Director Jeff Robbins. “For this exploratory committee, the goal remains 2030 — whether it’s through the 2026 process or the 2030 process.”
Bullock and Robbins will lead a small Utah delegation to the Winter Olympics that begin Friday in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Since the 2002 Games ended, Bullock has been an important adviser to the IOC and other cities preparing to host Winter Games, and he will be meeting with IOC and USOC officials during his stay in South Korea.
He will convey Utah’s unequivocal desire to play host to the Olympics once more, taking with him a resolution of support passed unanimously Tuesday by the Legislature. As Herbert read the resolution Wednesday, he paused at the words “welcome back the world” and interjected a personal observation — “That’s pretty cool.”
When Herbert signed documents Wednesday, completing the paperwork behind Utah’s reinvigorated Olympic aspirations, cheers and applause filled a crowded meeting room at the state Capitol.
The Tribune poll showed support for another Olympic bid crosses all boundaries — age, gender, political and religious affiliations, and education levels. Almost as many very liberal people back a bid as very conservative folks.
In no category did “strong opposition” exceed 7 percent. Dan Jones & Associates surveyed 803 registered voters Jan. 15-18 and the poll had a margin of error of 3.5 percent.
The honor of making the motion to approve the committee’s recommendations was extended to retired banker and philanthropist Spencer Eccles Sr., a major force behind launching Salt Lake City’s last Olympic bid in the late 1980s.
“My confidence level is a lot higher now than it was then,” Eccles said later. “We know we have our foot on a rock. We held the most successful Winter Olympics that’s ever been held and the only one that’s been profitable.”
But he said he’s not assuming Utah will be selected, pledging “we’ll leave no stone unturned. No matter how strongly confident we feel, it’s still a big competitive world out there. We’ll handle everything through to the finish.”
Votes for the recommendation came from as far away as South Korea, where exploratory committee member and Olympic silver medalist Noelle Pikus Pace was part of the USOC contingent welcoming American athletes to the 2018 Winter Games.
“I am voting an enthusiastic yes to move forward with the exploratory committee report,” said the skeleton racer, who finished second at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, in an email that Bullock read into the record. “Having such a knowledgeable and passionate committee is an incomparable benefit to the state of Utah.”
Applause rang out again.
The committee prepared a 140-page report to back up its position. Noting that he is a CPA by trade and a man who appreciates numbers, Niederhauser said he was most impressed by the data supporting the notion that Utah can put on a Winter Olympics cheaper and more efficiently than anywhere else.
“I trust these numbers because of the experienced [people] who put these together,” he said. “This isn’t the first time we’re taking on an Olympics. We know what it takes and what it’s going to cost. The revenue numbers are conservative.”
Niederhauser also said the state will upgrade existing Olympic venues to keep them ready for elite competition, adding the state has lived up to the goal it set in the first Olympic go-round — to become the center of winter sports in the United States — by keeping its venues in continual use by premier and recreational athletes.
“Utah’s brand is winter sports. Regardless of whether we get the Olympics, the Legislature is committed to maintain that brand,” Niederhauser said. “We’re one of the centers in the world where Olympians train, where [the U.S. ski and speedskating teams] are located. That’s what we are. And that’s where we want to stay and be ready, willing and able when those [Olympic] opportunities come to us. With the community behind us, we will put on an even better Games in 2030.”
Robbins noted that Utahns show a level of support for a repeat Olympics bid that is unmatched in cities around the globe. A number of cities, including former 2026 favorite Innsbruck in Austria, have rejected efforts to stage the Games because of their anticipated costs.
Wearing her jacket from the 2002 Games, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said she wanted to “express pride on behalf of Salt Lake City residents to continue to be part of the Olympic family.” She said the exploratory committee’s report was thorough and predicted the city council “will be thrilled … to pursue another extraordinary experience for Salt Lake City and the state.”
The IOC is scheduled to award the 2026 Winter Olympics in September 2019.
To see complete copies of the exploratory committee’s report, go to https://utahsportscommission.com or https://utaholympiclegacy.org.