SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City got the green light to bid for the Winter Olympics — most likely for 2030 — in an attempt to bring the Games back to the city that hosted in 2002 and provided the backdrop for the U.S. winter team’s ascendance into an international powerhouse.
The U.S. Olympic Committee said Friday it was selecting Utah’s capital, which stood out as a predictable, slam-dunk pick in a process that also included Denver in Colorado and Reno, Nevada.
With venues still in place — some of them upgraded — from the 2002 Games, Salt Lake claims it can host again at a lower cost than other candidates, which aligns with the International Olympic Committee’s new blueprint for the Games.
It’s almost a certain bet the bid will be for 2030, though the USOC left open the possibility of other dates. There are only two bidders for 2026: from Sweden and Italy, after voters in Calgary, Alberta, rejected a proposed bid.
One key hurdle for Salt Lake City will be erasing memories of the bidding scandal that marred the buildup to 2002 and resulted in several IOC members losing their positions for taking bribes.
Mitt Romney was brought in to steer the games through the scandal.
In many parts of the U.S., however, the Games are remembered for a different reason.
After never surpassing 13 medals at a Winter Games, the U.S. used home-turf advantage, an influx of new sports and the emotion of the recent Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks to capture 34 over three weeks in Utah.
In the aftermath, Park City and other mountain towns near Salt Lake City preserved and improved upon many of the venues and continued hosting key international events. The freestyle world championships will be held in Park City in February 2019.
Utah organizers say they could host the games for $1.35 billion, some $50 billion less than it cost in Russia for the 2014 Sochi Games, which are the most expensive games ever and stood out as a blaring warning signal that the IOC needed to streamline its bloated Olympic structure.
The exorbitant costs have changed the dynamic of Olympic bidding. In 2002, cities were trying to bribe IOC officials to award them the Olympics. These days, the IOC finds itself wanting for bidders.
The IOC normally awards Olympics seven years before they’re scheduled, though that calendar has been in flux because so many cities have dropped out.
Last year, the IOC handed out the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games at the same time because there were only two cities left in what began as a much bigger contest for 2024. Paris will host 2024, Los Angeles will host 2028, and if Salt Lake wins 2030, it would mark the first time since the IOC began staggering the Games two years apart, in 1994, that the same country has hosted back-to-back.
At this time, Salt Lake City could be considered a favorite in a 2030 contest that hasn’t really taken shape yet.
In fact, Salt Lake City could still be a favorite for 2026 had it been allowed to go that route. Recently, voters in Calgary rejected that city’s attempt to host, leaving Stockholm and a joint bid from Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, as the only two remaining candidates. A bid from Utah was considered, but putting it in front of the Los Angeles Olympics provided too many hurdles on the marketing side.
Written by EDDIE PELLS and BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press.
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