UPDATED: USOC visits Park City, Salt Lake City as bid race narrows
A A successful push for Salt Lake City to carry the United States banner in the race for the 2030 Winter Olympic Games might just come down to planes, trains and automobiles.
Representatives from the United States Olympic Committee visited Salt Lake City on Wednesday and toured the broader Olympic region’s athletic facilities as the committee’s timeline to select a U.S. bid city for the Games in 2030 narrows. The day began with a tour of Park City’s facilities with local government and business officials along for the ride. At a lunch intermission and press event at Rice-Eccles Stadium, local advocates and government officials touted the Wasatch Range’s proximity to an international airport, ground transportation infrastructure and existing facilities from the 2002 Games. The day was capped by the delegation’s visit to both houses of the Utah Legislature.
Park City Mayor Andy Beerman, a member of the committee pushing for the bid, attended the luncheon and said Wednesday evening he believed the tour to be successful. He also emphasized that the goals for a 2030 bid are different than that of 2002.
“I think when we did the games back in 2002, it was really about putting Park City and Utah on the map, and it was an economic development tool,” Beerman said. “This isn’t about an economic development tool this time around. It’s about celebrating the sport, it’s about putting on a sustainable, compact games and it’s focused not around commercialism but focused on the athletes.”
Events are already in motion that could aid Salt Lake’s pursuit. The Reno-Tahoe region in Nevada and California on Monday announced it was dropping its bid for the 2030 Games, leaving Salt Lake and Denver as the only cities in the running. Locally, the University of Utah earlier on Wednesday unveiled plans to expand Rice-Eccles Stadium, which served as the site of the opening and closing ceremonies in 2002. Athlete housing is under construction at the Utah Olympic Park, and the remodel of the Salt Lake City International Airport is set to be ready by 2024 for an Olympic event.
“You are witnessing that we feel like this is in our DNA,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski. “I take my boys out skiing and we talk about what happened at those Winter Olympic Games and about what Mom is working on for their own experience.”
The list of speakers at the event also included Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, University of Utah President Ruth Watkins, USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland, Utah Sports Commission CEO Jeff Robbins and local three-time Olympian Shannon Bahrke. Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, a Republican who has been a major figure in Olympic talks, was also present.
Herbert promoted Utah’s thriving economy and its prior Olympic experience as reasons it should host a second games.
“When you look at us, you look at a team that is ready, able and willing, has the experience and background to make sure that we put on as good of an Olympics in the future as we did in 2002,” Herbert said.
The USOC took a similar tour in Denver on Tuesday. Salt Lake is considered to have a strong chance to receive the nod and become the second American city to host a second Winter Olympics after Lake Placid, New York, also joining Los Angeles, which is set to have hosted three summertime Olympiads after 2028.
Park City would play a key role in a Salt Lake Olympics, just as it did in 2002, when it was the location of many skiing and snowboarding events. Olympic emblems adorn overpasses and pylons mark historic sites around the city that has since has hosted large-scale international snow sports events on a regular basis, with the upcoming 2019 FIS World Championships in freestyle disciplines set to bring the largest crowd of spectators since the Olympics.
Beerman said an Olympic bid would be a major opportunity for Park City to flex its green muscle on an international stage. The games would come after the 2022 deadline for the city to go carbon neutral for municipal operations and just before the 2032 goal of achieving that mark citywide. It would also allow the city to make progress on other areas of focus, such as affordable housing and transportation.
“If we build athlete housing for this, we could then convert that to workforce housing,” Beerman said. “With the airport expansion and potential to run electric buses up and down Parley’s Canyon to park and rides … we could make it so you absolutely don’t need a vehicle to be at the games.”
USOC officials have said they intend to pick a bid city by the end of the year. The International Olympic Committee is set to vote on the location of the 2030 Games in 2023, one year after Beijing becomes the first city to host both a summer and winter Olympics.
Becca Gerber, a first-term member of the Park City Council who is seen as bringing a younger person’s perspective to the Marsac Building, will seek reelection this year.