U.S. Olympic leaders will visit Salt Lake City next week as they scout out future Winter Games host cities

As many as five USOC officials are scheduled to visit Utah next week to gauge SLC’s readiness

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Thousands of fans reveled while fireworks exploded above the City and County Building in 2002 to welcome the Olympic torch relay to Salt Lake City, while giant portraits of athletes graced the sides of downtown buildings and helped create a festive atmosphere.

As anticipated, officials from the United States Olympic Committee are scheduled to arrive in Salt Lake City next week to perform an on-site visit to determine where Utah’s capital sits in its long-desired quest to potentially be the U.S. bid city for a future Winter Games.

As many as five USOC members are expected to arrive in Utah on Wednesday for a visit that will feature stops at various former Olympic venues from the 2002 Games held here 16 years ago, plus meetings with local officials to gauge how prepared the onetime Olympic hosts are for a potential return of the Games.

“We’re excited to highlight our commitment to Olympic legacy and our continuing investment in sports and all of the new things that we’ve done,” said Jeff Robbins, president of the Utah Sports Commission who is also a co-chairman of Salt Lake’s Olympic Exploratory Committee (OEC). “I think, obviously, we’re going to visit a number of the Olympic venues and meet with certain officials and have a day that’s just jampacked full of a lot of great site visits and information.”

The visit will be a one-day Olympic crash course to prove to the USOC that Salt Lake City is the most-sensible choice for the desired Winter Games bid the USOC has — at least in the short term, ambitiously dubbed “a future Games.” While likely bidders for the 2026 Winter Games continue to be in flux worldwide, it’s been rumored that if the International Olympic Committee needed a last minute go-to host, it could circle back to Salt Lake. The 2030 Games, at this point, seem the most likely bid for the USOC. Los Angeles will host the Summer Games in 2028.

In the first open meeting between the newly formed Salt Lake Executive Committee for the Games and the OEC last week, officials said Utah’s capital would be open to whatever cycle the USOC prefers. Salt Lake City is considered a USOC finalist alongside other interested cities based out West, alongside Denver and the Reno-Tahoe area.

“We’re certainly excited to host them and showcase all the great things we feel that we have to offer,” Robbins said, “and also what we have to offer to, hopefully, have a future bid at some point in time.”

The visit will not be specific to Utah’s vibrant Olympic legacy. Robbins said officials in Utah will undoubtedly point to the growth in infrastructure beyond the former 2002 venues, such as the expansion of the Utah Transit Authority’s TRAX lines throughout the Salt Lake Valley, as well as the multibillion-dollar renovation of the Salt Lake City International Airport that is expected to be completed in the next decade.

“It’s kind of blending the old and the new,” Robbins said.

Officials here have been confident in the long-awaited sell to the USOC. Even last week as the committees met to discuss the visit that will take place Wednesday, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said bluntly: “It’s really ours to lose.”