Amy Roberts: Anywhere but Here, 2034
The year 2034 might seem like forever away, but then again, in 2008, so did the year 2021. The past 13 years kind of flew by, and it’s highly likely the next 13 will follow at roughly the same pace. Before we know it, our calendars will all claim it’s 2034 — the year Park City may or may not once again host a number of Winter Olympic competitions. Though given the current speed of global warming, the Jamaican bobsled team might have a competitive advantage. Ice, snow, and cold-enough temperatures are all pretty essential elements for the Winter Games, and none of them are guaranteed.
A committee made up of business leaders, politicians, and athletes are lobbying the International Olympic Committee, hoping to secure another Winter Olympic Games for Utah. They met just a few weeks ago at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns to discuss the status. Though 2030 is a possibility, most agree it seems unlikely due to Los Angeles playing host to the Summer Games just two years prior. So, 2034 is the goal. But is it a wise one? I venture to say it’s not.
When the Games came our way in 2002, it made sense. Park City was hardly the well-known resort town it is today. Two decades ago, if someone complained about traffic, it meant there were elk stopped in the middle of 224. Essential workers lived in town because they could afford to. They called each other from their landlines. The Jordanelle was full. Kimball Junction was quaint. California license plates were mostly only seen during Sundance. Snow was both predictable and plentiful. Lift lines were unheard of because there wasn’t anything incredibly “epic” or “ikonic” about us. So it made sense from a marketing standpoint to welcome the world and show off a bit.
Nearly 20 years later, I think we’d be hard pressed to find a single person in Utah who would suggest the state needs more promotion, more traffic, or more humans.
There is an undeniable environmental cost to hosting the Games. Those pushing for the bid have made lofty promises using words like “green” and “eco-friendly.” Should we tell them about the carbon footprint of a private jet? Or the vast selection of lodging properties that aren’t exactly energy efficient? What about all the times thousands of visitors will need to flush the toilet, or decide to take an extra-long shower? It will require a small army of housekeeping staff and waiters and chefs to wait on them, who likely won’t live nearby — how will they get to work? If we aren’t requiring visitors to bring their own water, staff, to travel by bike and providing them a place to camp off the grid, the idea the Games will be green is comical at best.
They will, however, likely be red. It’s pretty well documented that hosting an Olympics is hardly a good investment. In 2012, London brought in $5.2 billion on the Summer Olympics, but spent $18 billion. Vancouver lost roughly $5 billion when it hosted the 2010 Winter Games. Beijing was over $36 billion in the red after the 2008 Summer Olympics. Every two years, in every host city, there’s been a big minus sign written in the ledger. In fact, the Games haven’t been profitable for the host city since 1984 when Los Angeles netted roughly $200 million.
To be certain, the Olympics are a big deal. Athletes dedicate their lives to the hope of competing for their country. The Games are meant to promote peace and unity. The world celebrates. There’s a magic to the pomp and circumstance. And being a host city comes with some bragging rights. But it’s time to ask ourselves — is the pride worth price?
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The hesitancy among some to be vaccinated reveals another pandemic, Amy Roberts says. “[W]e’d rather double down on being wrong than admit we’ve learned something new and changed our mind.”