USOC will bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics, leaving Salt Lake City boosters elated

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Former Salt Lake Organizing Committee COO Fraser Bullock speaks as members of the newly-announced Olympic/Paralympic Exploratory Committee (OEC) met with members of the media to outline their reasons for exploring the possibility of hosting a future Olympic Winter Games, Thursday, October 19, 2017.

Salt Lake City’s ambitions to stage another Olympics cleared one hurdle Wednesday.

The U.S. Olympic Committee sent a letter informing the International Olympic Committee that it was interested in having an American city vie for the right to play host to the 2030 Winter Olympics, according to Fraser Bullock, the leading figure in Utah’s quest to replicate the magic of the 2002 Games.

The USOC had until March 31 to let the IOC know of its interest in participating in a “dialogue stage” the IOC set up to help potential bid cities learn whether they have the wherewithal to stage an Olympics before they spend money on a formal bid.

“We’re thrilled that they are moving forward,” Bullock said, contending the approach is consistent with the strategy laid out in the Utah Olympic Exploratory Committee’s report in February that endorsed a bid for the 2030 Games — with the offer that Salt Lake City could be ready in 2026 if called upon.

That’s possible, since a scarcity of cities looking to be hosts previously prompted the IOC last year to award the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games simultaneously — 2024 to Paris, 2028 to Los Angeles.

The IOC is scheduled to begin its “candidature stage” in October for the 2026 Winter Olympics. That would be the soonest the IOC could decide whether it needs to award more than one Games at a time.

Bullock said the USOC has not defined a process for selecting a candidate city, but he expects that to be revealed in the next few weeks. Salt Lake City’s interest is on the record, backed by the governor and legislature. Denver and Reno-Tahoe are exploring the possibility.

Denver has formed a 40-member exploratory committee, led by businessman Rob Cohen, that is investigating whether a Winter Olympics could be privately financed in Colorado, with an operating budget based on not building permanent venues for many events, such as ski jumping and the sliding sports.

The Denver bid also is examining what could be done to improve traffic flow along often congested Interstate 70, the main route between Denver and the mountain resorts where skiing and snowboarding events would be staged.

Bullock and other Utah bid leaders don’t believe Colorado can produce top-flight Olympic facilities for anywhere close to the cost of what Salt Lake City has available — and has maintained — since 2002. A state audit suggested it would cost about $50 million to upgrade Utah’s facilities.

Long interested in bidding, Reno’s pitch for the 2030 Games is expanding to include Sacramento as a partner as well as Squaw Valley and other Tahoe-area resorts. Andy Wirth, chief operating officer at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows ski area, is chairman of its exploratory committee, which was formed in late February.

“We begin and end on the fact that Squaw Valley is the proud host of the 1960 Winter Olympics,” he said when the exploratory committee was formed. “There is a romantic element to that.”