Utah’s Olympic committee building its resume during doldrums by bulking up its sports events calendar

Bradley Wilson, of the United States trains during the FIS Freestyle World Cup skiing competition Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, at Deer Valley in Park City. The event will return for the 22nd year on Feb. 4-6, making it the only U.S. stop for the series. (AP File Photo/Jeff Swinger)

The committee charged with positioning Utah as a capable host for the United States' next Winter Olympics games finds itself in a bit of a holding pattern.

When it was formed last February, the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games expected to be making a decision by this fall about when the region would bid to host its second Winter Games. Then COVID-19 threw the Olympic schedule into a tizzy. Tokyo 2020 was postponed until next summer and some uncertainty was cast upon Beijing 2022. With the International Olympic Committee’s attention focused on the other side of the globe and on the task of seeing those events through even as the world experiences a second wave of the virus, there’s little the local committee can officially do but plan and wait.

But that’s not really its style.

So, in addition to sending letters to the IOC and its president, Thomas Bach, emphasizing its ongoing interest in hosting, the group charged with bringing the Olympics back to Utah has been busy bulking up its resume.

“We haven’t just sat on our hands,” said Jeff Robbins, a committee member and the president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission. “We’ve been pretty darn busy.”

At Tuesday’s first meeting of the full committee since February, Robbins gave a presentation about the importance of saturating the state with high-profile sporting events.

That proved to be a challenge this year amid the pandemic. Still, the Utah Sports Commission managed to host seven events that Robbins said had an economic impact of $40 million.

Next year, Robbins said the commission has 50 events on the schedule. That’s not unusual for a non-virus year, said committee member Colin Hilton. Hilton is the president and CEO of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, which was born out of the 2002 Olympics with the purpose of keeping the state a sports hub.

“The one thing that really distinguishes our region,” Hilton said, “is the level of consistency that we will have leading up to... a future games, through the games and after the games with the relationships that we already have with the international winter sport federations.”

Among the events on the calendar for next year are the FIS Freestyle World Cup’s only domestic stop, at Deer Valley Resort on Feb. 4-6; the AMA Supercross season finale at Rice-Eccles stadium this spring; and the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in St. George and the Vans Park Series skateboarding world championships, both in September.

Several of those events were originally scheduled for this year but had to be postponed. That’s a possibility again in 2021. Still, Robbins said, it’s important to keep looking for opportunities.

“We’re America’s choice right now, but we really want to be the world’s choice,” he said. "And a key part of that is World Cups, world championships, all of the kinds of international events that take place.

“And the goal of being America’s choice is really to try to become the world’s choice. So, hopefully we can do that.”