Park City seen as critical to any Winter Olympic bid in Utah
Exploratory committee formed to consider a Games as soon as 2026
Utah could seek a second Winter Olympics as soon as the event in 2026, supporters said on Monday, something that immediately propels Park City and Summit County into the throes of what could be an intense, fast-moving discussion about the prospects of the region hosting another Games.
The Park City area is crucial to any Olympic bid. Approximately half of the events in 2002 were staged locally as athletes competed at Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley Resort and the Utah Olympic Park. Main Street was turned into a pedestrian-only celebration zone. Another major venue was located at Soldier Hollow in nearby Wasatch County. Few details were announced on Monday, but it seems almost certain government, tourism and resort-industry figures from the Park City area will be heavily involved in the discussions.
The Utah Sports Commission indicated an exploratory committee, announced on Monday, will include elected officials, businesspeople and leaders in the community. The announcement was made three days after the United States Olympic Committee said it wants to seek a Winter Olympics in 2026 or the Winter Games four years later. The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to award the 2026 event in 2019.
The U.S. Olympic Committee position was important since potential American Winter Olympic bid cities have been waiting for the national committee to signal it would begin the bidding process for a Winter Games. Los Angeles was recently awarded the Summer Olympics in 2028, turning the attention to a Winter Games. The announcement in Utah also was made as voters in Austria opted against an Innsbruck bid for the Olympics in 2026. The Austrian city hosted the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976.
The full exploratory committee roster was not announced. Details are expected to be made public at an event scheduled on Thursday. The co-chairs are Wayne Niederhauser, who is the president of the Utah Senate, Jeff Robbins, who is the president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission, and Fraser Bullock, a businessman who was the chief operating officer of the organizing committee that put on the Winter Olympics in 2002.
Andy Beerman, a Park City Councilor who has been involved in previous discussions about the state bidding for a second Olympics, said he anticipates Park City, as a community, will have a “key role” in the exploratory committee. He said City Hall will be represented, but he did not immediately have details.
“We are a critical part of any Utah Olympic Games… It would be really hard for them to host the Games without us,” Beerman said.
He said a community conversation will be needed about Park City’s role in an Olympic bid. Beerman said the Olympics in 2002 were “tremendous” and brought many benefits like upgrades to infrastructure and the legacy of children who grew up in Park City in the Games era becoming Olympians themselves.
City Hall itself played a significant role in the Olympic planning and then the operations during the Games. Leaders in that era early in the efforts created a staff position to direct the Olympic planning, and there was extensive Olympic-related travel funded by Park City taxpayers. The Olympic efforts eventually became the overriding task at the Marsac Building. The County Courthouse also dedicated significant resources to the Olympics.
Utah has considered the possibility of hosting another Olympics since shortly after the Games in 2002. The Olympics 15 years ago were seen as one of the most successful Winter Games as the event was lauded for the operations and ended with its finances sound. The topic of hosting another Olympics is notably broached every four years as the Winter Games unfold elsewhere, and there was more buzz about another Olympics on the 10-year anniversary.
The supporters argue the Utah Olympic region is positioned well to host another Games. They say the venues from 2002, such as the Utah Olympic Park, are intact and remain in use for World Cup-level competitions. They also say the region offers the infrastructure – highways, transit systems, lodging options and convention space – that is required of an Olympic host.
The upcoming discussions will offer an intriguing look into the impressions of Park City as the community’s leadership, the resort industry, the tourism sector and rank-and-file Parkites dwell on the idea of another Olympics. Many recall the Olympic era with fondness, remembering the excitement building as the Games neared followed by what they considered to be a magical 17 days of the event itself. But others saw the Olympics as something that brought aggravations to everyday life in Park City with only scattered financial benefits that largely benefitted certain industries.
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