Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — U.S. Olympic officials don't seem to be in any rush to decide whether Salt Lake City is bidding for the 2030 or 2034 Winter Games.
Leaders of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee declined Friday to say the choice will be made before the upcoming 2022 Winter Games that begin in Beijing next February, even though there continues to be new competition for Utah's efforts to bring another Olympics to the state.
"At the point in time in which it seems appropriate and we feel confident that we have the right collective decision on timing, then we'll absolutely announce that and I can't speculate on whether that will be before Beijing or not," CEO Sarah Hirshland told reporters during a virtual news conference after a closed-door USOPC board meeting.
Salt Lake City, host of the 2002 Winter Games, was selected over Denver as the U.S. choice for an unspecified future Winter Games nearly three years ago, but discussions between the USOPC and the International Olympic Committee didn't start until this summer, during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo that were delayed by COVID-19.
Under the IOC's new and less formal process for naming a host city, there is no deadline for submitting a bid. However, there is also no timeline for awarding a Games, as cities that may have been considering a bid for the 2032 Summer Games found out when the IOC named Brisbane, Australia, the host earlier this year.
"We don't have any reason to believe that there will be a decision around a host city for the 2030 Games before Beijing. So our commitment is to continue to explore those discussions with the IOC and we'll do that," Hirschland said.
Other cities, including Sapporo, Japan; Vancouver, Canada; and Barcelona, Spain; have also expressed interest in hosting the 2030 Winter Games, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently announced he's sending a delegation to the IOC headquarters in Switzerland to start talks about a bid.
Hirschland said she doesn't think clarifying whether the U.S. is pursuing 2030 or 2034 offers any advantage.
"I don't think there's any lack of clarity around our interest. That's been made very clear," she said, to both the IOC and through public statements over the years. "I don't think there's any question about our commitment and our interest."
Leaders of Utah's bid effort, who have been quietly putting together detailed proposals for both 2030 and 2034, have been hopeful that the talks between U.S. and international Olympic officials in Tokyo meant a decision was imminent.
"We continue to work closely with the USOPC in carefully looking at 2030 and 2034. While we hope for a decision in the near future, we understand their appropriate focus on the upcoming Games in Beijing," said Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games.
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who led the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, met this week with IOC leaders in his Washington, D.C., office. The Republican, who has said "the sooner the better" for another Winter Games in Utah, put in a plug for Salt Lake City in a tweet about the meeting.
"Utah takes great pride in having served as host of the 2002 Winter @Olympics. Enjoyed reminiscing about the Salt Lake City Games with members of the International Olympic Committee. Seems like a no-brainer to bring the games back to the Beehive State, if you ask me!" Romney tweeted.
Utah takes great pride in having served as host of the 2002 Winter @Olympics. Enjoyed reminiscing about the Salt Lake City Games with members of the International Olympic Committee. Seems like a no-brainer to bring the games back to the Beehive State, if you ask me! pic.twitter.com/BUaRMVuNgK— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) September 21, 2021
Hirshland said that while no determination has been made about which Winter Games to pursue, the USOPC is "absolutely engaged with the Salt Lake organizing group as well as the IOC and its winter bid commission," making sure those who'll review the bid understand what Utah has to offer "and the opportunity that sits in front of us."
She said under the IOC's new bid process, intended to replace expensive campaigns with technical discussions, "there really is an ongoing discussion happening and a much less structured sort of, 'bid window open or closed.' So we consider the bid process very open and very active."