Summit County ready to step up as Salt Lake City selected as bid city for Winter Olympics
Summit County officials are now faced with considering their role as Utah’s Olympic region readies to prep for a bid following the United States Olympic Committee’s announcement on Friday that it has Salt Lake City to vie for a future Winter Olympic Games, likely in 2030.
Tom Fisher, Summit County manager, said he, along with elected officials and county staffers, have been in conversations with officials in Park City and the state’s Olympic exploratory committee since it was first announced earlier this year Salt Lake would pursue a second Games. The 2002 Olympic Games featured many events at venues in Summit County.
But, now those conversations are expected to take on a different tone.
“It becomes a little more serious. If Salt Lake City is going to be submitting a bid, Summit County and Park City are going to be major players within that bid,” Fisher said. “We will definitely have to be involved in that and we will definitely be at the table to express what Summit County brings to the table in that.”
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Fisher anticipates the conversations will focus on what it will take to submit a bid and what it would take to host another Games, thrusting the region again into the world spotlight. He said the county plans to offer its full backing as a bid is put together.
“We will be supporting the committee that puts together that bid with whatever it takes and whatever Summit County thinks it takes to put on a Games,” he said. “Part of that will be projecting what our climate and sustainability goals are, as well as our goals as it relates to transportation and mental health. All of that will go into the process of producing a bid for Salt Lake City.”
Summit County officials have recognized that the county did not play a very active role in the preparations leading up to the 2002 Games. But, Fisher said the change in county government from a commission to a manager-council format has provided the focus of a full-time staff dedicated to projecting the county’s brand on a consistent basis.
“It is just different than it has been in the past,” he said. “Certainly, with Park City being the site of major ski areas, it is going to be the focus of Summit County. But, the county government has to be a major part of that. If you simply look at geographics, everything will come through Summit County.”
As elected officials have discussed issues such as transportation and affordable housing in recent months, most of the conversations have included mention of how those matters would be affected by a future Games.
Summit County Councilor Chris Robinson, who was a member of the organizing committee for the 2002 Games, said those Olympics facilitated a significant amount of infrastructure and improvements. But, he highlighted the need to take a step back for a moment.
“It’s a little early yet to be pulling out all the stops just because the USOC has identified Salt Lake City as the bid city,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that we have a Games yet. Though, it is a huge milestone.”
Robinson said the county will need to focus in the coming months and years on the logistics of public safety and transportation. If the region is awarded the Games, he said it won’t be a successful experience if visitors are stuck in traffic on S.R. 224 and S.R. 248, unable to reach the venues.
He said the Games have the potential to provide opportunities for the county that will be beneficial for years to come.
“It won’t just be an event like the county fair or Sundance,” he said. “It will continue to pay dividends in the long run, in terms of well-thought-out infrastructure. It will be another jewel in the crown of our brand of being a winter sports mecca and a great place to visit and live if it is done right.”
It is unclear what the timing is for submitting a bid for the 2030 Games. Fisher said as that becomes clearer, the county will start working within that timeframe. Until then, he said the county has to continue operating on a day-to-day basis. The International Olympic Committee typically awards Games seven years out.
“As we go through that process with the other communities, if and when we win or are awarded the Games, that is when the focus will change to not only providing the county’s basic services, but to us having to be ramped up to host the Games,” he said. “It is so exciting to have this kind of recognition or affirmation for our community and for Utah. We understand also that there are those that have apprehension about it. But, the opportunity very possibly outweighs the apprehension.”
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