Salt Lake Olympic committee members get emotional in making final pitch to International Olympic Committee

Local organizers expect it will cost between $2.2-2.4 billion to host the Games but have promised none of those direct costs will be borne by taxpayers.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Fans watch the Doubles Luge competition at the Utah Olympic Park, 2002 Olympic Winter Games on Friday, Feb. 15, 2002. The group trying to bring the Winter Games back to Utah made its final pitch to the IOC's Future Host Commission on Tuesday.

While making their final pitch to an International Olympic Committee (IOC) body about why the Winter Games should return to Salt Lake City, members of the local organizing committee at times Tuesday fought back tears and cleared frogs from their throats.

The emotions weren’t stirred so much by this being their last chance to dazzle the International Olympic Committee before it selects the sites it will favor for hosting the 2030 and 2034 Olympic Games next week, though it was. Rather, local organizing committee president and CEO Fraser Bullock said, some in the group — which also included Olympians Lindsey Vonn and Catherine Raney-Norman, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Gov. Spencer Cox, among others — got a little choked up when asked to elaborate on what hosting the Olympics would do for the community and for sport in Utah.

“I think some of us actually got a little bit emotional when we were describing that,” Bullock said, “because it is such an opportunity to be able to do that.”

In addition to answering questions about the impact of bringing another Olympics to the state, the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games delivered details about government contracts and its master plan and vision during the 50-minute-long virtual presentation to the IOC’s Future Host Commission. The commission will present its findings to the IOC executive board on Nov. 29. Either that day or shortly thereafter, the board is expected to select its finalists to host the two editions of the Games.

Those sites will enter into what the IOC calls “targeted dialogue” and will not be officially confirmed as Games hosts until after a vote of the entire IOC membership. That vote will take place next July, prior to the Paris 2024 Olympics, unless France is among the finalists. If France is among the finalists, because of IOC regulations forbidding a site to be granted a Games on its home soil, the vote would take place in a special session.

France, Sweden and Switzerland, all vying for the 2030 Winter Olympics, also made their pitches Tuesday. Salt Lake City is the only site vying for the 2034 Games, Future Host Commission Chair Karl Stoss revealed in October. However, Salt Lake City has said it will be “ready and willing” to host in 2030 should the IOC determine the other sites won’t be ready in time.

“From the experience today,” Vonn said in a news release, “I think the IOC and [International Paralympic Committee] understand our commitment.”

Bullock said he couldn’t comment on conversations with the commission. However, convincing the commission that Salt Lake City could handle either edition was a prime objective of the local group’s pitch, Bullock said.

“We wanted to inspire confidence in them that they could count on us,” he said. “And the fact that we have all the pieces in place, all our contracts in place, all the government guarantees in place were key to that message.”

The group also has grand visions of what bringing the Olympics back to Salt Lake City could do for the city, state, country and even the world. At a community level, Bullock said the hope is that the Games will be an impetus for getting kids away from screens and into motion. On a larger scale, the local group sees a Salt Lake Olympics as a catalyst for bringing people together and unifying a divided world.

Those visions, Bullock noted, are backed by experience. When Salt Lake hosted the Games in 2002, it was just months after the attacks on the World Trade Center.

“When people volunteer and come together in a great cause, it has the opportunity to bring people together and to see our communities more united in a very divided world,” he said. “We’re all about that. We saw that in ‘02. We hope to be able to do much, much more in a future Games and the ramp up to a future Games, whether it’s in ‘30 or ‘34. That’s a long time where we can do things with our communities.”

More than 80% of Utahns support the return of the Olympics, according to a poll conducted by the Hinkley Institute of Politics and the Deseret News. Local organizers expect it will cost between $2.2-2.4 billion to host the Games but have promised none of those direct costs will borne by taxpayers.