Park City starts Olympic talks, noting 2002 successes, 2030 realities
Park City’s elected officials on Thursday held their first formal discussion about the prospects of Salt Lake City and the wider Olympic region mounting a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics, a talk that likely foreshadows what will be a wide-ranging community conversation in coming months that could at some points highlight the glories of the games in 2002 while at other moments stress the financial and logistical realities of another Olympics.
Mayor Andy Beerman and a Park City Council down two absent members were not scheduled to make important decisions about the Olympics on Thursday, but the discussion was important regardless. There has been extensive talk about the possibility of another Olympic bid since last fall even though the mayor and City Council had not held a formal discussion before Thursday.
The meeting on Thursday drew a small crowd, and nearly everyone in the room was a City Hall staffer. It was evident even before the meeting the elected officials did not expect to make major decisions. Staffers and others involved in either 2002 or the current discussions briefed the elected officials, describing the efforts during the earlier games and current process. Upward of half of the events in 2002 were held in and around Park City, and the area is seen as critical to a future Olympic map.
The mayor and City Council are interested in approaching rank-and-file Parkites shortly with the hopes of gauging their interest in an Olympic bid. Staffers said they will seek input through a variety of measures, including Coffee with Council gatherings and City Hall’s online engagement tool.
There has appeared to be widespread support for another bid in the state, evidenced through polling, but Park City’s leaders want to learn the local opinions. There was talk on Thursday about the existence of Olympic naysayers in Park City.
City Councilor Tim Henney was especially interested in the diverse opinions. He anticipated there could be resistance in Park City, describing that he has heard a “knee-jerk reaction” questioning whether the community should host another games. If Park City says “no way” to the Olympics, Henney said, it would be more difficult for Salt Lake City to host a games.
The discussion on Thursday moved through a wide range of Olympic-related topics, but the elected officials, staffers and figures from outside the City Hall ranks who are involved did not seem to make significant progress beyond beginning to identify topics for future discussion.
City Councilor Steve Joyce indicated he wants information about the Olympic financial models, such as revenue sources. Matt Dias, the assistant Park City manager, told him about revenue streams like the sale of broadcasting rights and sponsorship deals. Myles Rademan, the former public affairs director at City Hall and a key staffer during the earlier Olympic era, added that the federal and state governments put funds into infrastructure in anticipation of a games.
The mayor noted Park City and Salt Lake City are ahead of other places that may consider a games bid, mentioning the region’s transportation infrastructure. He also said 15-year plans for upgrades could be concentrated into five years if another Olympics is awarded.
The staffers also briefed the mayor and City Councilors about the bidding process. The United States Olympic Committee must determine which city it will forward to the International Olympic Committee for consideration. Salt Lake City, Denver and the Reno-Lake Tahoe region in Nevada and California are interested.
The discussions in recent months have centered on a bid for the 2030 Olympics rather than the event in 2026. There is concern that hosting the Winter Olympics in the U.S. in 2026 would interfere with the marketing efforts of the Summer Olympics two years later, which will be held in Los Angeles. Dias, though, said a bid for 2026 remains a possibility.
Dias also explained the International Olympic Committee is interested in staging games that are sustainable and with reduced costs. The Utah Olympic backers see that interest as advantageous since the sports venues from 2002 remain in operation.
“This really, really works in our favor,” he said.
Dias also said the International Olympic Committee wants to align the games with the goals of the communities where they are held. He said Park City could accelerate its own priorities, such as those regarding cleaner-burning energies, in a second Olympics.
Other points discussed at the meeting included:
• Dias saying the Olympic region could host an economical event and be a model for sustainable games.
• Rademan cautioning officials not to underestimate the time and effort needed to prepare to host an Olympics. He said an Olympic czar — a City Hall staffer assigned to games planning — is needed.
• Bill Malone, the president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, describing that many inaccurately see an Olympics as a “cash cow.” The rewards come on a long-term basis, he said, calling the games in 2002 Park City’s “coming out party.”
• Colin Hilton, who is the president and CEO of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation and was a high-level staffer with the organizing committee that put on the games in 2002, saying Park City in the earlier Olympic era took a larger role in crafting plans than other communities where venues were located.
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The two-vote margin between the sixth- and seventh-place finishers in the Park City Council primary election is so narrow after the initial counting that there is a possibility the final tally would fall within the range that a recount could be requested. The possibility of a recount will not be known until an Aug. 27 canvass.