U.S. Olympic Committee says talk of Salt Lake City bid still too early
Officials say process to secure another games has not yet begun
Those waiting to hear about a Salt Lake City bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics will have to keep waiting.
U.S. Olympic Committee officials addressed that topic Monday in a wide-ranging press conference kicking off the organization’s media summit, held this week at the Canyons Village base area of Park City Mountain Resort in advance of the 2018 PyeongChang (South Korea) Winter Olympics.
CEO Scott Blackmun said he expected the USOC board to broach the possibility of a U.S. bid next month, but so far, that process hasn’t been discussed.
“We honestly haven’t evaluated or assessed it at all,” he said. “We’re grateful we have multiple cities who are interested in it.”
Blackmun said Denver and Tahoe/Reno, Nevada, have also expressed interest in a bid.
Chairman Larry Probst said the USOC might bid for the 2030 Winter Games instead of 2026 to prevent marketing conflicts with the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
Patrick Sandusky, chief of external affairs, put the timeline in perspective.
“I would add that we’ve been bidding for a summer games since 2003 and it’s been, like, 15 days since we won an Olympics,” he said. “So there might be a little more time before we get to that point.”
USOC officials also addressed a range of other issues, such as the possibility of peaceful protests by athletes in February.
Blackmun said the USOC respects the rights of athletes to voice their opinions.
“Look, I think the athletes you see protesting are protesting because they love their country, not because they don’t,” he said. “We fully support the right of our athletes and everybody else to express themselves.”
He added that the Olympic Games prohibit all forms of demonstrations “political or otherwise,” though he also recognized John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s iconic Black Power salute during the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
“That was a seminal moment not only for the Olympic movement, but for the U.S. Olympic team,” he said. “We recognized them last year by bringing them to the White House, so our stance on this has been fairly clear. We certainly respect the rights of the athletes to express themselves.”
The Winter Games will also be held amid a time of global political tension as rhetoric between the United States and North Korea has heated up in recent months.
Blackmun said the USOC will be going to PyeongChang despite the fact the city is located roughly 50 miles south of the North Korea border. According to Blackmun, the USOC is in close communication with the U.S. State Department and the U.S. military in South Korea and is confident in the team’s security while traveling.
“These games are really no different than any other games in terms of our preparations,” he said. “We had the opportunity to be in South Korea a little over a month ago and met with the four-star general who oversees all of the forces there, so we are in constant communication like we always are.”
If the situation deteriorates, Blackmun said, the USOC would not get involved in the resulting conflict.
“At that point it becomes an issue for the (International Olympic Committee) and for our nations to make decisions on,” he said.
So far, Blackmun said, none of the team’s athletes have mentioned reservations about attending the games.
Blackmun also addressed a recent statement by Laura Flessel, France’s minister of sports, indicating that France might opt out of the PyeongChang Olympics if its team’s safety cannot be assured. He said her comment was taken out of context.
Probst added that Flessel’s statement was overruled by the head of France’s National Olympic Committee, who said the country would likely participate in the games.
Regardless of France’s commitment, Alan Ashley, chief of sport performance, said he is looking forward to the competition. Unlike Rio and Sochi, Ashley said PyeongChang’s facilities and environment are adequate and well suited to host the games.
“The preparations of the venues themselves is really in great shape,” he said. “One thing that’s really fun about PyeongChang is the quality of the snow is really good.”
He added that the organizers in PyeongChang are “reactive to fine tuning being done.”
“Our experience has been really good on the ground there and I’m very excited about the actual competitions and what can happen there for team USA,” Ashley said.
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