Gov. Gary Herbert and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said on Monday the state and the capital city are ready to host another Winter Olympics.
If that happens, perhaps in 2026, the Park City area would play a critical role in a bid. One of the members of the Utah Olympic Exploratory Committee said in an interview Park City and the surrounding area could be more important to another Olympics than it was when it hosted upward of half of the events in the Winter Olympics in 2002.
Colin Hilton, who serves on the exploratory committee and was a key Olympic organizer in 2002, said some of the sports that were added to the Winter Olympic program after 2002 or are scheduled to be in coming Olympics could be staged in the Park City area. He pointed to sports like slopestyle skiing and snowboarding, ski cross, snowboard cross and the skier halfpipe.
Hilton said Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley Resort and Canyons told the exploratory committee there is interest in hosting events in an Olympics. PCMR and Deer Valley were important venues in 2002. Canyons did not host Olympic competitions a decade ago, but some of the peripheral activities were there. The Utah Olympic Park would again be the location of the ski jumping and sliding sports.
"Park City's involvement will always be a large part of the planning efforts," Hilton said.
Hilton managed the Park City-area venues for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee in 2002. He is now the director of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, which oversees the operations of the Utah Olympic Park and the Utah Olympic Oval.
The United States Olympic Committee will decide later whether it will submit an American city as a candidate for the Games in 2026 or a later one. Salt Lake City would launch a bid to become the nation's candidate city at that time. It is not certain what other cities would compete to become the American choice.
Salt Lake City's bid needs to first be chosen by the United States Olympic Committee. The International Olympic Committee will later make its selection as the host. That decision is expected in 2019. Hilton said it will likely be 2015 or 2016 before Olympic bid-related work starts to increase significantly.
"We think a Winter Olympic Games bid is a very smart, low risk, responsible choice," Hilton said.
He noted the competition venues from 2002 remain heavily used and there is support from the public and private sectors. The state, he said, continued to advance winter sports in the post-Olympic era, hosting World Cup competitions and expanding training opportunities.
Park City Councilman Andy Beerman, who monitored some of the discussions on behalf of City Hall, said in an interview there would need to be talks between Park City leaders and the community about another bid. He said it seems Parkites are interested in hosting another Olympics and winter sports are "in our DNA."
"Park City is certainly ready and able," he said, adding, "We could pull it off again."
The Utah Olympic Exploratory Committee in October unanimously recommended Salt Lake City bid for the Olympics in 2026 if the United States Olympic Committee pursues those Games. The October report made numerous references to the Park City area and the role it could play in another Olympics.
In a prepared statement released on Monday, Gov. Gary Herbert called the state "the best choice" to host another Olympics in the United States.
"We want the USOC to know Utah is not only ready, willing, and capable, but that we are the best choice," Herbert said. "Utah has become the winter sports capital of the USA. By hosting another Winter Games, our commitment to support ongoing Olympic movement initiatives will only be strengthened."