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Governor announces exploratory committee for '22 Olympic bid


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SALT LAKE CITY — It's official — Utah is considering another Olympic bid.

"I think that Olympic fire still burns bright within most Utahns," Gov. Gary Herbert said, promising any decision on a bid for a Winter Games in 2022 or beyond would be based on "fiscal prudence and good governance."

His announcement Wednesday of the formation of an exploratory committee came on the 10-year anniversary of the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Games.

The announcement

At the announcement of another bid, Herbert said there's no question Utah is ready for another Olympics. "We've proven the point we're capable of hosting," he said, "probably better than anyone who's done it before."

But the governor said there are questions that need to be answered before committing to another bid.

Those include whether the private sector is willing to step up with the money needed to upgrade the state's Olympic facilities, including the speed skating oval in Kearns where Wednesday's announcement was held.

Also still unclear is whether Utahns want another Olympics. Bullock said getting public input is at "the top of our list."

"This is a Utah event. It's a Salt Lake City event. It's from the citizens, so they should have an overwhelming influence in the direction we take," Bullock said. Public input, he said, could include conducting a survey.

The 14-member exploratory committee gathering that input and making the recommendation will be led by Lt. Gov. Greg Bell along with Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker and Steve Price, the private sector co-chairman of the Utah Sports Commission.

Becker said, "there is no pre-determined recommendation. We need to take a very hard look at every aspect of whether or not it is worthwhile for our community, for our state, for our taxpayers, for the private sector to step forward again."

But one of the athletes on the committee, Eric Heiden, a five-time Olympic gold medalist in speedskating who is now an orthopedic surgeon in Salt Lake City, said he'd already made up his mind.

Describing the boost another Olympics would give young athletes in Utah, Heiden said, "I know I'm a little bit biased, but I vote yes" on another bid.

Community response

The news of considering another bid generated plenty of response.

Mitt Romney, the former leader of the 2002 Games and now a GOP presidential candidate, said he was "delighted that Utah is thinking about bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Our great nation is wonderfully suited to host the world's greatest sporting competition."

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, called the prospects of hosting another Olympics exciting.

“I think we showed as a state that we can do it, that we can host the Games successfully,” she said. “I think we have a great story to tell.”

But, she said, the cost should not fall on Utahns. “I do not feel comfortable asking the taxpayers to foot the bill for the Olympics.”

Former Gov. Mike Leavitt said another bid deserves a serious look.

"I think we would be seen as a serious candidate by virtue of what we did before," Leavitt said. "But I think we could do it even better than we did the last time."

Former Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini, who was involved in the failed bid for the 1998 Winter Olympics that went to Nagano, Japan, said, "It would be much easier for us to do it a second time around" because the facilities are already in place.

"But a lot of it is all about politics," Corradini said of the decision-making process that starts with the U.S. Olympic Committee selecting a candidate and ends with the International Olympic Committee choosing the site.

"Whether our time will come again, nobody can guess at this point," Corradini said. "I do know there are a lot of people who would love to go to work on a second bid. If I were asked, I certainly would."

The plan

Although many residents are ready and willing for a second chance to host the Olympics, Bell said one of the first issues the committee will have to deal with is finding funding for travel and other expenses. "We don't think this is going to be very costly," the lieutenant governor said.

"We'll not ask for governmental funds. Part of the test of this from the very first will be, will the business and other parts of our community other than government step up and be willing to support this exploratory effort."

He said the committee would not be subject to the state's open meeting laws. "We have nothing to hide," Bell said. "Nothing is going to be secret that needn't be, but certainly we have to be aware of our competitive question as well."

Herbert said he would anticipate the meetings would "be open and transparent. There's no reason they won't be."

The 14 members of the exploratory committee all come from business and sports backgrounds.

"The community needs to be represented," said Glenn Bailey, head of the Crossroads Urban Center and an outspoken advocate for greater representation on the 2002 Olympic organizing committee.

He said at least one member of the committee should be speaking on behalf of the entire community, including the state's low-income residents.

"This is an event that has extensive community impact," Bailey said. "There's needs to be somebody who's looking out for the average person."

Contributing: Dennis Romboy and Richard Piatt

Email:lroche@ksl.com,Email:hschwarz@desnews.com

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