Salt Lake looks to 2030 or 2034 following Italy’s winning 2026 Winter Olympics bid

Mayor of Milan Giuseppe Sala, center, and members of Milan-Cortina delegation celebrate after winning the bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games, during the first day of the 134th Session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), at the SwissTech Convention Centre, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Monday, June 24, 2019. Italy will host the 2026 Olympics in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo, taking the Winter Games to the Alpine country for the second time in 20 years. (Xu Jinquan/Pool via AP)

The Olympic Winter Games are bound for Italy once again.

Now that the 2026 process is solidified and the International Olympic Committee chose the joint Milan-Cortina bid over Stockholm and Latvia on Monday, will the Winter Games be returning to Utah in the far-away future? The Beehive State is once again in the mix after the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee chose Salt Lake City as a bid city for a future bid, either in 2030 or 2034.

The IOC, which chose Torino to host the 2006 Games in Italy 13 years ago, again went with Italy Monday, as the Milan-Cortina bid won with 47 votes to Stockholm’s 34. It’s the first Olympic Games with multiple official host cities. The new bid process signals a change in the way the IOC and its leadership are willing to embrace cities and countries that express a strong desire to host future Games.

“Hopefully it makes it more competitive over time for [the IOC],” said Jeff Robbins, CEO of the Utah Sports Commission and co-chair of the Salt Lake Olympic Exploratory Committee.

Locally and nationally, the focus now shifts to Salt Lake, which was chosen by the USOPC in December as its future bid city. The USOPC already has the Summer Games coming to Los Angeles in 2028.

“Our pathway’s not changed,” said Robbins. “We’re going to continue to keep working toward bringing in great events. We’re going to continue doing exactly what we’ve been doing. We’re America’s choice. We continue to host events, support Los Angeles in their 2028 bid and look to the USOPC as a determination of when and where.”

The Italian bid that won Monday shared that it had a 83 percent public backing in a public poll taken by the IOC in March. Conversely, the Stockholm-Latvia bid had just 55 percent. Robbins said that news makes Utah Olympic organizing hopefuls feel better about their prospects going forward. Various public and USOPC-led polls have had Utahns in support of an Olympic return as high as 89 percent.

As the 2026 bid seemed on shaky ground last summer and fall, questions arose about whether or not Salt Lake could be an emergency host for the 2026 Games in a worst-case scenario for the IOC. But as the Italian and Swedish bids strengthened, that allowed the IOC to zero in on the two European finalists. Now that 2026 is official, it allows the USOPC and the Salt Lake bid to focus on the next the Olympic Winter Games to be awarded.

“It’s nice because in one way, obviously people here probably would’ve liked it sooner than later, but at the same we know there’s two windows: There’s 2030 and 2034,” Robbins said. “The ready, willing and able model we set in place has worked. We’ve kept the venues in place, we’ve generated huge economic impact in the state of Utah and then we’ve kept our community engaged.”

On KUTV’s “Talkin’ Sports” Sunday night, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert once again expressed his keen desire for an Olympic return in Utah one day, reiterating that the bid to the IOC would not need to feature any taxpayer money.

“People appreciated coming to Utah for the convenience [in 2002] and there’s no better place right now in the world — right now, I believe, literally in the world — to host a Winter Olympic Games [than] right here in Salt Lake City,” said Gov. Herbert. “We can do it more economically than any other place.”

Salt Lake was chosen as the future bid city by the USOPC over the Reno-Tahoe joint bid. Sapporo, Japan, has also reportedly expressed interest in potentially bidding for the Games in 2030.