U.S. Olympic Committee CEO ready to ‘roll up our sleeves’ to bring Winter Games back to Utah

Hirshland unfazed by Japan’s 2030 bid announcement: ‘We don’t have a sense of urgency that we’re going to miss out on an opportunity’

Excitement about the Salt Lake City area hosting another Olympics, even if it's 10-plus years down the line, is so palpable that Sarah Hirshland said even her Uber drivers were gushing about it.

Yet Hirshland, the CEO of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said the meat of the process of bringing those Games to the area has just begun.

“It is our honor to form a more structured partnership, to begin to roll up our sleeves and do the work that is necessary to really evaluate the opportunity to bring a Winter Games back to Salt Lake City,” Hirshland said during a joint press conference with Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “The world is excited to come back here. The memories of 2002 are still strong both in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movement and in the global movement — we hear that from around the world. We’re excited to be partners in this venture, we’re excited to consider welcoming the world back here. Now our obligation is to work closely together to find the right moment and the right opportunity.”

The formation of an official Salt Lake City-Utah bid committee was announced Wednesday at the capitol building. Its creation was spurred, in part, by the Japanese Olympic Committee’s announcement that it had given Sapporo permission to become the first city to formally bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics. Sapporo hosted the Winter Games in 1972.

The first task of the local bid committee is to determine whether the region would be better served by also bidding on the 2030 Games or instead bidding on 2034 Games. Hirshland said with the next opportunity to host an Olympics at least 10 years away, there isn’t a rush to make that decision.

“We don’t have a sense of urgency that we’re going to miss out on an opportunity,” she said. “We’re quite confident that we have the right structures in place and the right timeline in place to make sure we don’t miss an opportunity.”

She added, “We feel like we have more flexibility in our planning and timeline” than Sapporo.

Mendenhall, an honorary chair on the committee, emphasized that the committee has prioritized diligence over speed.

“We are not going to rush a decision of this scale,” she said. “We’re going to get the right information we need and take the time that we need to be sure that when we are ready to set a timeline in place and have our sights set on a certain games that we will be 100 percent confident in our ability to execute it well.”