Summit County officials say their exclusion from an Olympic Games committee was not a snub
When state leaders announced a new committee Wednesday to compete for a future Winter Olympic Games, there were more than 70 names on the list, ranging from athletes to business leaders to politicians, including the mayor of Park City.
Noticeably absent, though, were any officials from Summit County, despite it being the contemplated location for many Olympic events.
Summit County officials, however, are adamant that this was not a snub.
“No, not at all,” County Manager Tom Fisher said. “I’m sure we’re invited to the party.”
County Council Chair Doug Clyde, meanwhile, said pursuing a bid “is by no means a major priority to the county.”
County officials previously have said they want a bigger role in planning a potential Games than in 2002.
The Olympic Games are seen as an opportunity to pursue federal funding for infrastructure projects. The flyover from U.S. 40 to Interstate 80 was constructed in the run up to the 2002 Games, for example.
Fisher and Clyde said not being represented on the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games does not foreclose that opportunity.
“To some degree those opportunities are out there, but those didn’t get built as a result of fist pounding on the table,” Clyde said. “They get built because there’s a need.”
Clyde said he was in the private sector in the run up to the last Olympics, at Powdr Corp. and Alpine Meadows at Tahoe before that.
“We spent millions of dollars (pursuing the Olympics),” Clyde said. “That’s appropriate if your purpose is to get the publicity bang you get out of the Olympics.”
For Summit County, however, Clyde said daily operations take precedence over pursuing a future bid.
“We have very immediate concerns that we need all of our staff to work on,” Clyde said. “Are we vested in making sure we have a successful bid? Not to the extent of spending massive amounts of public money.”
Fisher points out that Salt Lake County is the only county with a representative on the committee, its mayor, Jenny Wilson.
Weber, Wasatch and Utah counties join Summit County in being included in a concept map of potential venue sites but not having representatives on the committee.
Several cities are represented, including West Valley, Ogden and Provo.
Fisher said the committee’s size could have quickly grown unwieldy if more names were added.
Should the Games be awarded to Salt Lake City and the broader Olympic region, Fisher said the county is preparing to pursue projects that would help deal with the event’s impacts while reflecting the county’s priorities to the world.
The Games are still a decade out, at the earliest, and bids are generally awarded several years ahead of time.
Fisher anticipates the county to would participate in a more official capacity if and when a bid is awarded.
Summit County and Park City are pursuing a bus rapid transit (BRT) system that has been estimated to cost roughly $75 million. The two governments are working together to finalize plans while Olympics talk ramps up.
“Uncanny that that works out that way, isn’t it?” Fisher said.
He and Clyde identified bus rapid transit as the type of project that could be aided by an influx of federal spending, but Clyde said the likelihood of the timing working out is low.
“If we’re not done with BRT a decade before the Olympics, we’re not paying attention,” Clyde said.
Clyde said the federal money isn’t a slush fund the county can use to line its pockets.
He said an aerial transit system like gondola connections doesn’t appear to make sense in an Olympic context. The system moves far fewer riders per hour than would be necessary, he said, and is limited by its nature as a point-to-point connection.
Fisher said the Games would be an opportunity for the county to focus on its strategic goals in the international spotlight.
The county has identified traffic mitigation, environmental stewardship, affordable housing and mental health as some of its strategic priorities.
“How we’re represented — we want it to be based on the things that were trying to do and how we’re trying to project ourselves,” Fisher said. “We want to keep pushing so we make gains on these things so we represent to the world that you can run a sustainable place while hosting (the Olympic Games).”
Other “stretch goals” might include pursuing a waste-to-energy system, something that has been considered but so far deemed too costly and untested, or pursuing a large renewable energy project.
Fisher said the county will continue to represent its own interests as the Games are discussed, though it has a close relationship with executive committee member Park City Mayor Andy Beerman; committee vice chair Colin Hilton, president and CEO of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation; and the committee’s president and CEO Fraser Bullock, the managing director of Sorenson Capital.
Fisher anticipates the county will have to pour resources into the project as it gets closer to reality and will likely participate in subcommittees.
For now, Clyde says, providing services to Summit County residents is the government’s main focus.
“Working on a future Olympic bid — that is simply not something that is a priority over daily operations,” Clyde said.
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