The Olympic countdown is on, but when will SLC know if it’ll be picked to host?

Utah organizers estimate the 2030 Winter Games will cost $2.2 billion. They say none of that will be paid for by taxpayers.

At this time next year, the International Olympic Committee expects to announce the host of the 2030 and possibly 2034 Olympics. But organizers of Utah’s bid for an upcoming Winter Games will receive assurances, or rejection, months before that.

By December, local organizers will know if they made the final cut, according to a timeline announced last week in Lausanne, Switzerland, during the close of the 139th IOC Session and executive board meeting. That’s when the IOC plans to enter into targeted talks with its preferred host for the 2030 Games, as selected by its Future Host Commission. The IOC may also begin talks with the preferred host of the 2034 Games at that time.

“In the best of the worlds, it would happen during the IOC session in Mumbai in May next year,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. “... In order to get there, then the executive board would have to take the decision about a targeted dialog in December.”

The IOC adopted a new way of selecting hosts in 2019 following myriad scandals — including one in the lead-up to Salt Lake City’s first Olympics.

In the targeted dialog phase, the IOC works closely with a single candidate to make sure it can tick all the boxes for hosting an Olympics in the year specified. It’s not a guarantee that the site will be chosen as host — all 105 IOC members will vote on that during the May 2023 session in India — but it’s a strong indication.

Who are the candidates for the 2030 Winter Olympics?

Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s Olympic Games executive director, said Friday that the commission will spend the summer whittling down its choices for 2030. The serious candidates at the moment are Sapporo, Japan; Vancouver, Canada; and Salt Lake City — all of which have hosted previous Winter Olympics. Spain also lodged an attractive bid to host in the Catalonia and Aragon regions, but its candidacy has been marred by political disputes.

“We have a very strong proposal,” Dubi said in response to a question about the timeline posed by a reporter for Japan’s Kyodo Times, “and this is very pleasing at this stage.”

Over the next few months, then, the members of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games will be doing all they can to enlighten the Future Host Commission about how much Utah has to offer.

“This is now an accelerated time of the bid because, with Beijing behind us, this now becomes the central focus for the IOC,” Bullock said. “So we are incredibly focused on improving and enhancing our bid.”

Next month, a delegation from Utah and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee will travel to the IOC headquarters in Lausanne to press their case. Immediately afterward, they will travel to Milan, Italy — site of the 2026 Winter Games — for a debriefing with the Beijing organizing committee.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ahenaer Adake (China) competes in the 3000m, speed skating at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. A delegation from Utah plans to go to Italy in June to hear how organizers pulled off the 2022 Olympics.

Those will mark the first opportunities for local organizers to meet with IOC members in person. A trip to Lausanne scheduled for last November was canceled and a December meeting was held virtually, both because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Utah delegation also missed out on a chance to grease the skids in Beijing after the observer program for the 2022 Olympics — designed to give potential hosts a behind-the-scenes look at the organization of an Olympics — was called off days before Bullock was scheduled to depart.

The meeting in Italy, set for June 20, will be a makeup of sorts for that missed observation opportunity. All the cities that have expressed interest in hosting have been invited to attend.

“We look forward to that opportunity to be able to learn what’s new,” Bullock said, “because much has changed since our games in 2002, particularly in technology and other elements of hosting.”

What does Utah need to do to secure the Olympic Games?

Bullock and his colleagues already have some inkling of what needs to be upgraded — such as electronic ticketing systems and expanded internet access — after hosting an IOC technical committee in late April. The three-person committee toured all the venues the SLC-Utah group has proffered for the 2030 Games. Among them were four ice sheets, Utah Olympic Park, Soldier Hollow, the Utah Department of Transportation operations center and the dorms and stadium at the University of Utah. The tour also included four ski resorts: Park City Mountain, Deer Valley, Snowbasin and the yet-to-be-built Mayflower in Park City.

The SLC-Utah committee has emphasized that many of its venues were built for the 2002 Olympics and will require major updates if they are asked to host competitions in 2034 or beyond. In 2017, the IOC named two Summer Games hosts, Paris in 2024 and L.A. in 2028. It is possible the IOC will take that route with the next Winter Olympics. Or Bach, whose term ends in 2025, may leave that decision to his successor.

The observers, who will report to the Future Host Commission, went straight from Salt Lake City to Vancouver for a similar visit. They also have a trip to Sapporo, host of the 1972 Winter Olympics, planned in the coming months.

Bullock said local organizers and the observers had a good exchange of ideas, but that their guests were pretty tight-lipped about how Utah’s facilities rate compared to other potential hosts.

“They’re very appropriately confidential about their impression,” Bullock said. “Their job is to report back to the Future Host Commission. But, the feeling of partnership and collaboration just in them helping us with our bid was incredibly strong.”

What is the cost of hosting the Winter Olympics?

Many outside observers have said they believe Sapporo is the favorite to win the 2030 bid. That stems from the belief the IOC “owes” Japan another Olympics after it shouldered most of the cost for postponing the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games a year — the first time such a delay had occurred since World War II. Those games officially ended up costing $12.7 billion, twice as much as originally budgeted. However, a national auditor put the number closer to $20 billion.

As a result, the Japanese people are believed to be not entirely on board with bringing the Olympics back. But Sapporo, which has said it will not have a referendum on its bid, expects these Games will cost considerably less. By using some of the venues built for the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano — a nine-hour train ride from Sapporo — organizers estimate the cost will be between $2.4 billion to $2.6 billion.

Salt Lake City’s proposal for 2030 carries a similar estimated price tag of $2.2 billion, which Bullock has promised will not be borne by taxpayers. Pushing the date back to 2034 would bring it closer to $2.6 billion, still one of the least expensive of the candidates. In part because Bullock oversaw the 2002 Games, considered one of the most financially successful Olympics in history, and because it will not need to construct any new venues, Utah is also considered a reliable option.

One main concern, however, is whether Salt Lake City can drum up enough sponsorship during a decade packed with premiere sporting events in the United States. In addition to Los Angeles hosting the 2028 Summer Games, the U.S. will host the World Athletic Championships this year, the FIFA World Cup in 2026, the men’s Rugby World Cup in 2031 and the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2033.

That could steer the IOC to instead pick Vancouver for 2030 or 2034. Last hosting in 2010, the Canadian site has newer facilities and has an “indigenous-led” bid, a first of its kind. If that happens, the IOC would likely be reluctant to pick Utah for the other Games because that would give North America three Olympics in a six-year span. Then it could be another couple decades before the Olympics come back to Salt Lake City.