Expect a 'celebration' on July 24, a US Olympic leader says about 2034 Winter Games


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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah should easily clear the final hurdle to be named the host of the 2034 Winter Games, a top U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee official said Friday.

"We're very, very excited about it and we think it will be quite a smooth process," USOPC Chair Gene Sykes told reporters during a news conference following this week's board meeting in Indianapolis. Last week, the International Olympic Committee Executive Board advanced the bid to a final vote by the full membership, set to be held in Paris on July 24.

Sykes said there should be plenty for Utahns to celebrate on Pioneer Day.

"We have great confidence that the recommendation of the executive board will carry the day and that Salt Lake City-Utah 2034 will in fact be named the host of the 2034 Games," he said, adding there should be "expectations for a celebration that will come in the wake of a great moment."

The Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games that's behind the bid was credited with winning over the IOC.

"I will just tell you that the IOC thinks the world of this team," said Sykes, who is expected to be named an IOC member in July. "They have a lot of confidence in their leadership. They've been exemplary in terms of the level and extent of their communications and clarity of what they're trying to do."

Sykes, who joined the IOC's Future Host Commission during their April visit to Utah, said "the level of local excitement and support and enthusiasm is remarkable." He said that reassures the IOC "that they have great partners here in the United States and people that they can count on to really take advantage of this incredibly important franchise, the Olympic Winter Games."

The bid committee met later Friday, their last get-together before the vote in Paris. The community, political and business leaders on the committee heard about the plans to hopefully celebrate on July 24 starting at around 3 a.m. given the time difference with France, with those camping overnight in downtown Salt Lake City for that morning's Days of '47 Parade.

Events are also planned for later that day in Park City and Provo, and a fundraising gala on Aug. 10 would also help raise money for what would become an organizing committee. Donations would be the only source of revenue for 2034 organizers for the next five years because the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles hold the rights to sign sponsors through 2029.

The bid committee's president and CEO, Fraser Bullock, stopped short of sounding as sure as Sykes as he acknowledged the hard work that's gone into getting this far and joked he'd like "a little downtime" ahead of what would be a decadelong run up to Utah's second Olympics after hosting the 2002 Winter Games.

"Once we have the Games, it has the power to do good. That's what we want to do," Bullock said after describing preparations for the upcoming presentations to the IOC next week and again on July 24, adding that organizers "won't be doing a lot of those initiatives, but we can be a catalyst."

Earlier Friday, the 95-page report by the Future Host Commission was released. The commission's "extremely convincing documentation" was cited last week by IOC President Thomas Bach after the IOC Executive Board sent Utah's 2034 bid to a final vote without asking any questions.

Bach highlighted the consistently strong public and political support in Utah for another Olympics, noting such bipartisan backing is unusual in a deeply divided United States. A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found that 79% of Utahns are in favor of hosting the 2034 Winter Games, with nearly half — 48% — expressing strong support.

"All this made it a very easy decision," the IOC president said.

The commission report describes the bid committee's plans for a 2034 Games as a "mature project," that is "inspired by an ambition to extend the transformative benefits of the Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2002 to a new generation." It states, "Commitment to sport and to giving back is embedded in the Utahn DNA."

Much of the report parallels the bid committee plans previously made public, including a vision for the Games as elevating communities, winter sport and the event experience, the use of existing venues from 2002, and a privately funded $2.83 billion budget with the state once again the financial guarantor.

The report does note several areas that should be monitored going forward, such as the impact of plans for an entertainment district in downtown Salt Lake City built around Utah's new hockey team that will play in a remodeled Delta Center. The Salt Palace, which could be reconfigured, is the site of not only the broadcast and media centers but also a temporary facility for curling competitions this time around.

Also targeted for monitoring is ensuring compatibility between the Utah Legislature's signing off on the state accepting responsibility if Games revenues fall short, and the IOC's host contract, "particularly in terms of liability." Unlike in 2002, there is currently no cancellation insurance available to reduce the risk, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that forced a yearlong delay of the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

Olympic Day held at Utah Olympic Park

Utah marked Olympic Day on Friday, with activities at the Utah Olympic Park near Park City. Olympic Day, what the IOC defines as a "global celebration of sport and getting active" was established in 1948 and is usually celebrated on June 23 to commemorate the day the modern Games was founded in 1894 by Pierre de Coubertin.

At the park that's home to the Olympic bobsled, luge and skeleton track and ski jumps, several hundred Utahns participated in a variety of events intended to showcase winter sports as the bid committee met in a nearby building.

Four-year-old Alec Jefferson from West Bountiful got down on his stomach to take aim at a laser biathlon target.

"I shot the targets," he said. How many did he hit? "One," he told a reporter, shaking his head when asked if wanted to be an Olympian.

That made his mom, Mary, smile. "He is a daredevil," she said. "When we do take him skiing, he's going off jumps."

Nick Vienneau, a skeleton coach at the park, was helping send helmeted adults and children down a stretch of track head first on skeleton sleds. Had he spotted any potential Olympic athletes among those willing to wait an hour for the brief ride?

"You never know," Vienneau said. "It really comes down to who commits."

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Lisa Riley Roche

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