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SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and other backers of bringing the Olympics back to Utah are expected to announce the formation of a new candidature committee Wednesday — but will their bid have to wait for the 2034 Winter Games instead of 2030?
"I think that may be accurate," Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, told KSL. "The thing we've always had is, 'Ready, willing and able.' ... As the door opens, we hope to be able to walk through the door and be ready."
But Adams, who will be part of the committee along with House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said the Winter Games should return to the United States sooner rather than later. It's been more than a year since the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee chose Salt Lake City to bid for an unspecified future Winter Games.
"We're America's choice right now, meaning that America has chosen Utah to represent them in the process. And we think it's been a long time since America has had the Winter Olympics. We think we're due. So whether it's 2030 or 2034, we hope it's one of those dates," Adams said. "We're going to be ready to go either way."
The 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City were the last Winter Games held in the United States.
But the announcement less than two weeks ago that Sapporo, Japan, is officially bidding to host the 2030 Winter Games has sparked new speculation that Salt Lake City may end up competing for 2034 instead of 2030, especially since the 2028 Summer Games are already in the United States, in Los Angeles.
"I'm still not certain they're going to go for 2030," said Ed Hula, editor and founder of Around the Rings, an online Olympic news source with an international following. "The idea that the U.S. would have a 2028 Summer Games and follow with a Winter Olympics in 2030 might be a bit excessive."
Hula said, however, there's a likelihood the International Olympic Committee could choose to award both the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games at the same time, as was done nearly three years ago with the 2024 Summer Games going to Paris, and Los Angeles, which was bidding for 2024, getting 2028.
"I think we're heading to a situation where 2030 and 2034 could be awarded in a dual fashion like they did with L.A. and Paris," Hula said. With "enough good cities bidding," he said, "there's no reason to leave them hanging on for another four years."
Just when those picks would be made is not clear under a new, more informal bidding process that encourages interested cities to enter into discussions with the IOC. Salt Lake City's candidature committee would take the lead in those talks. Traditionally, cities were chosen to host an Olympics seven years in advance.
Hula said the new committee would be the one "to put together the material the IOC needs to consider for a Winter Olympic bid without perhaps naming a date, because that's the sort of thing the IOC and prospective cities are supported to have out under this 'new norm,' the new way of bidding for the Games."
John Mason, director of communications for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said Salt Lake City's bid is still for a future Winter Games rather than for either 2030 or 2034.
"That has not changed," Mason told KSL. "That's a decision that's still to be made."
USOPC officials are expected to be in Utah for the international speedskating competitions being held at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns through the weekend and are likely to meet with members of the new Salt Lake City candidature committee.
Adams said he would have liked to have the Winter Games come back to Salt Lake City right away, in 2006.
"We'll wait and be patient," the Senate president said. "We'll take them when they come."
The Utah Legislature has committed to fund the upgrades to the state's existing Olympic venues needed to host another Winter Games over a decade.
Senate Budget Chairman Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said there may not be money for those improvements this year because of lagging growth in sales tax revenues that would have been fixed by the tax reform package repealed at the beginning of the session.
But Stevenson said lawmakers will honor their commitment to keeping up the venues that include a bobsled, luge and skeleton track, speedskating oval and ski jumps, but he joked that if the Winter Games don't return until 2034, "any effort I'm putting into this may be for my grandchildren."