Will Salt Lake need new Olympic venues? Organizers weigh in

Group will meet with IOC in Europe in November to get more clarity on 2030 vs. 2034 bid dates

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Fireworks explode over Rice-Eccles Stadium during the Closing Ceremony for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Organizers of the group seeking to bring the Olympics back in 2030 or 2034 say improvements like the expansion of Rice-Eccles Stadium that was completed this year puts Salt Lake in good shape venue-wise.

Salt Lake City can host a second Winter Olympics without building any new venues, organizers said Tuesday.

About 30 events have been added to the Winter Games schedule since they last came to Utah in 2002, including boardercross and slopestyle skiing. Yet Fraser Bullock, the president of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, said they can all be contained within pre-existing sites and venues. Bullock addressed the issue during a news conference following a meeting of the local organizing committee.

“We are in the fortunate position of every venue’s in place. And even though there are 40% new events, we can fit them into our existing infrastructure, which is just amazing,” Bullock said. “And in fact, many of our venues, especially non-competition venues, have taken a leap forward.”

Bullock singled out the new airport as well as improvements to the University of Utah dorms, which served as the Athletes Village in 2002, and the recent expansion of Rice-Eccles Stadium, the site of the opening and closing ceremonies.

Some venues could need significant upgrades before they’re fit to host again, however. In fact, the committee has reported that almost all the competition buildings — such as the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Peaks Ice Arena in Provo and the Ice Sheet in Ogden — will require substantial work if Salt Lake’s Games are not held by 2030. That is the next available Winter Olympics year.

In addition, some of the outdoor venues could be affected by climate change.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Fraser Bullock, the former SLOC leader in 2002 who now serves as president of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, with some of his Olympic memorabilia at his home in Alpine on Friday July 5, 2019.

The United States Olympic Committee has yet to officially submit a bid to host a future Winter Olympics. Three years ago, it named Salt Lake as its next host site, and local organizers have spent the time since hammering out budgets and contracts for both 2030 and 2034.

Though they have also not officially submitted bids, Sapporo, Japan; Vancouver, British Columbia; and the Barcelona-Pyrenees area have all expressed interest in hosting the 2030 Games. Ukraine also recently opened a dialogue with the IOC about hosting and is likely to pursue a bid for 2034.

Bullock said his preference would be to bid on 2030 because “I’m not getting any younger.” He noted, however, that decision hinges on the viability of hosting an Olympics in Utah two years after the Summer Games will be held in Los Angeles in 2028.

“We’re going through this process, but we have to balance our passion for an earlier games to the reality of hosting back-to-back games,” Bullock said. “And that has to be very, very carefully done.”

Both the USOPC and the local organizing committee may soon gain more clarity on the best Games on which to bid. Agents from both committees will travel to Europe to meet with the IOC the week of Nov. 29. Bullock said he expects to present the IOC with his group’s work to date and hopes to receive some feedback.

The committee has secured almost all of the 24,000 hotel rooms and accommodations required and has issued contracts to venues. Bullock said he hopes to have both those items buttoned down by the end of the year.

He would also like the USOPC to make a decision on a year by then, he said. But CEO Sarah Hirshland said last month that the USOPC won’t announce a date until “a point in time in which it seems appropriate and we feel confident that we have the right collective decision on timing.”

Bullock noted that during the traditional bidding process, which the IOC changed in 2018, sites were awarded seven years before an Olympics. So with eight years still before the 2030 Games, he’s not feeling a time crunch.

And whenever Salt Lake is chosen to host, it will be ready.

“In every way, we’re stronger, we’re even more prepared,” he said. “All of the competition venues, they’re there. We have everything we need.”