SALT LAKE CITY — Even though the world's attention is on the 2020 Summer Games — yes, they're still called that — set to start in Tokyo next month after a yearlong delay due to COVID-19, there's plenty going on with the effort to bring the Winter Games back to Utah.
At their first meeting since last fall, leaders of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games announced some significant changes and updates about the bid for a future Winter Games, likely for 2030 or 2034. Here's the latest from the group hoping to repeat the success of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
The new chairwoman is an Olympian
Catherine Raney Norman, a speedskater who competed in four Olympics, including in 2002, is the committee's new chairwoman, replacing retired Rocky Mountain Power CEO Cindy Crane. Crane will serve on the group's new executive committee.
The move is seen as enhancing the bid, which faces competition from Sapporo, Japan; Vancouver, Canada; and Barcelona, Spain.
"This really is about celebrating the athletes. It's not about us, not about our egos, not about governors or mayors or anybody else," Gov. Spencer Cox said. Cox is an honorary leader of the bid effort along with Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Utah Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, and Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville.
There are more athletes on the committee, too
Gold-medal athletes alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn, speedskater Apolo Ohno and Paralympic alpine skier Monte Meier were named to the committee's governing board. Ohno is the most decorated Team USA Winter Olympian with eight medals; Vonn, who now calls Park City home, has won three Olympic medals, including a gold in downhill skiing in 2010; Meier, who lives in Midway, won four Paralympic medals, including 1998 slalom gold, in Nagano.
Seven more Olympic and Paralympic athletes were added to the larger, strategic board They are:
Olympic figure skating medalist and Salt Lake City native Nathan Chen; Olympic nordic combined champion and Park City resident Billy Demong; three-time Olympic ice hockey medalist Meghan Duggan; Paralympic snowboard champion Noah Elliott; Olympic champion and Park City native Ted Ligety; Paralympic champion cross-country skier and biathlete Oksana Masters; and Olympic luge silver medalist and Murray resident Chris Mazdzer.
How much does an Olympic bid cost?
The budget for the bid will be $3.8 million, Fraser Bullock, the committee's president and CEO, said. He compared the budget to the cost of Chicago's failed attempt to land the 2016 Summer Games that went to Rio de Janeiro, reportedly as much as $100 million.
So far, $1.5 million has been raised for Utah's bid effort — $250,000 each from the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation and the Utah Sports Commission, and another $1 million from unnamed private individuals and entities, Bullock, the chief operating officer of the 2002 Olympics, said.
He promised no taxpayer funds would be used for the bid. Instead, Bullock said the committee intends to leverage support from other organizations "and see if we set a record for the lowest Olympic bid budget ever."
Still no decision on 2030 vs. 2034
Although Brisbane, Australia, is expected to be named host of the 2032 Summer Games by the International Olympic Committee next month at a meeting in Tokyo, it's still not clear when the attention will turn to the next Winter Games to be awarded, for 2030.
The IOC has a new, less formal process for choosing host cities that focuses on technical discussions. Susanne Lyons, U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee board chairwoman, said the IOC is "certainly well aware of our preparedness, our readiness and our readiness to engage in dialog as soon as they are."
Olympic officials here and abroad are preoccupied with the controversies surrounding the upcoming Summer Games in Tokyo, where COVID-19 continues to be a concern, as well as the Winter Games set to start in February in Beijing, amid calls for a diplomatic boycott due to China's human rights record.
Bullock has said there are pluses and minuses to hosting in either 2030 or 2034. An added complication is that Los Angeles has already been named the host of the 2028 Summer Game, limiting the money that could be made from domestic sponsorships two years later.
But waiting until 2034 could mean some 2002 veterans won't be around to help.
"It would be nice for those of us who did it before to bring along a lot of the next generation," Bullock said. "We'd love to do this every 16 to 20 years. This isn't just about 2030 or '34. This is perpetuity, a world capital in sport. We want to be on the stage continually. So some of us may be too old to do 2034."
Gov. Spencer Cox names an Olympic adviser
Steve Starks, Larry H. Miller Group of Companies CEO, will serve as the new governor's unpaid Olympic adviser and as vice chairman of the committee. Cox, a former lieutenant governor who took office in January, "is energized about the potential of having the Olympics return," Starks said.
He described Cox as a "catalyst" for the changes to the committee that put Salt Lake City and Utah in a more competitive position.
The governor said having an Olympian in charge emphasizes what the state has to offer the world.
Utahns have the ability to come together and "plant those seeds for the next generation, and that's what we're doing here today," he said, despite the country's great political division. "This is what we need to show the world. We need to show the world that there's a better way, there's a different way."
Hosting another Winter Games would provide that opportunity, he said, calling the Olympics "the one time where we see each other as human beings, in the power of competition. And Utah is the one place where we know we can put aside our differences and do better, and that's why we're doing what we're doing."