For most of the past year, organizers of Salt Lake City’s bid to host more Olympics have touted their desire to bring the Winter Games back to Utah in 2030, though 2034 is also a option. Recently, this message has started to change. And following an in-person meeting with International Olympic Committee officials last week, it took a difficult turn.
Now, it seems, the goal is to host in 2034, but with an open mind to 2030.
“We will find that, but if we have a preference, it would be better for us to do 2034,” Susanne Lyons, chair of the board of directors of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday. .
“I think in Salt Lake the bid committee realizes that we’re in an absolutely fantastic position for 2034, but we can still be called for 2030.”
Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Utah bid committee, said the need for a change in focus has become more evident recently. Rising inflation and the growing potential for recession, compounded by the already significant financial hurdles associated with hosting the Olympics 18 months after the 2028 Summer Games were held in Los Angeles, had begun to make 2030 a less attractive option.
“It’s sort of the natural evolution of the trend that we’ve been following for several months,” he said, “as we’ve seen things unfold in relation to the pandemic, inflation, different things like that.”
IOC leaders made this even clearer during the local bid committee’s first face-to-face meeting with them. Last week at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, IOC President Thomas Bach and others were “pretty candid” about the obstacles in Salt Lake’s path to the 2030 Games, Lyon said during of a press conference on Thursday.
The LA Organizing Committee takes on the marketing duties for the entire US Olympic movement in the lead up to hosting the Games, so it would be difficult to rework some of the arrangements to account for back-to-back Olympics in the same country.
Additionally, Lyons said some IOC members were frustrated with criticism of China by US lawmakers ahead of this year’s Beijing Games. Some of these lawmakers pointed to alleged human rights abuses in China when calling on the United States to boycott these Games. The United States imposed a “diplomatic boycott” of the Games, refusing to send government officials to the Games. Japan and Canada, which are also seeking to host the 2030 Olympics, have imposed their own boycotts.
“You have to line everyone up. It’s really a complicated effort,” said Christophe Dubi, the executive director of the Olympics, during a press conference on Friday. “And the advice we’ve given and continue to give is, ‘Everyone is pulling on the same string.'”
Members of the Salt Lake bid committee still planned to attend the Beijing Olympics as “observers” – an IOC program that allows potential Games hosts to see the inner workings of the Olympics – but China canceled the program a week before the opening ceremony due to COVID-19 concerns.
Congress then held hearings on the Beijing 2022 Games.
“Calling our sponsors to hearings in Washington, DC, was absolutely not helpful,” Lyons said, “and there are hard feelings about it.”
Still, Lyons said IOC officials told him they knew Salt Lake City, which hosted in 2002, could take on the role in 2030.
“They said the offer was, technically, very tight,” she said.
Only two other cities remain known bidders for the 2030 Winter Olympics: Sapporo, Japan, which hosted in 1972, and Vancouver, which hosted in 2010. Spain dropped its bid earlier this week after the local governments of Barcelona and the Pyrenees region failed to come. agreement on the events that each region would host.
The Salt Lake committee has forecasted the possibility of hosting in 2030 or 2034, so, Bullock said, the shift in focus to 2034 shouldn’t cause disruption. The committee estimates that the 2030 Games will cost $2.2 billion (adjusting inflation), not including IOC royalties and revenue sharing with the USOPC. It is estimated that the 2034 Games will cost 10% more than this due to building upgrades. Both estimates include $200 million for contingencies. Utah taxpayers, local organizers have promised, will not be responsible for any of these costs.
“We’re confident in the numbers we’ve put together,” Bullock said. But, he warned, “if there is significant inflation for an extended period, we may need to increase our inflation adjustment.”
The USOPC and local organizers may be changing tracks, but they are not opting out of consideration for the 2030 Games. The IOC Future Host Commission will make its recommendations in November and in December an Executive Committee will select a or several cities for a “targeted dialogue”. The host of the 2030 Winter Games is expected to be finalized at the 140th IOC Session in Mumbai, India, from May 31 to June 1, 2023. The host of the 2034 Winter Olympics could then also be selected .
“That doesn’t mean we’re out of the running for 2030,” Lyons said. “By the way, I would say if we’re not in 2030, I would say we have very, very favorable signs that we’re definitely a top contender for 2034.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.