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Local leaders voice concerns as Utah prepares for 2030 Olympic bid

Olympics Meeting
Sean Higgins
Members of the Summit County and Park City councils met with Utah Olympic bid organizers on Tuesday to discuss the bidding process.

The Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games is continuing its push for a second Olympics in the state and held a meeting with Park City and Summit County leaders Tuesday to discuss the process.

Utah could be hosting the world for another Winter Olympics as early as 2030.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee officially backed Salt Lake City as its pick for a future Winter Olympic host last year, with the Games in either 2030 or 2034 being targeted. The final decision on which year to bid for is up to the USOPC.

Traditionally, host cities for the Olympics were announced seven years in advance after a rigorous bidding process that could cost tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars. The IOC has moved away from that format in recent years, now favoring a more fluid process that is designed to save money. Salt Lake’s bid budget is only $3.8 million.

Speaking at a joint meeting with the Summit County and Park City councils on Tuesday, Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games CEO Fraser Bullock said the most important aspect of a future bid is unity within the community that it wants to host the Olympics.

Past polling has indicated that over 80% of people asked said yes to another Olympics in Utah, but many in the Wasatch back have also voiced concerns about the impact another Olympics could have on the area. Bullock said he hopes to build more support for the bid.

“It’s our work to continue to fulfill that dream to make sure we’re in partnership so that there’s never a question that this is going to be a wonderful experience for our community," Bullock said. "That’s our job, to make sure that we work with you to make that happen because we have to have that unity going forward.”

Bid committee members said the USOPC and IOC will conduct independent polling this spring and summer, which Bullock said the IOC will weigh heavily in the bidding process.

Other cities considering 2030 bids include past hosts Vancouver, Canada and Sapporo, Japan, as well as a joint bid between Barcelona, Spain, Andorra, and the Pyrenees region of France. Bullock said he hopes to be “bid ready” by mid-summer and said a 2030 host could be announced as early as next year.

Park City Councilmember Becca Gerber said while she was a huge fan of the 2002 Games, she also expressed many of the concerns in the community surrounding the prospect of a future Olympics.

“I would love that for my community again, but I guess there are real fears," said Gerber. "We are feeling the impacts of over-tourism and feeling like we’re somewhat being crushed by our own success right now. I would be interested in hearing about the difference in polling numbers, and also what solutions you can potentially bring to the table for some of those issues that we’re hearing in our community.”

Summit County Councilor Chris Robinson added that considering the growth that followed 2002, serious thought needs to be put into the long-lasting effects another Olympics could have.

“We have a lot of people now," he said. "We need to be smart in how we deal with these Games so that we’re planning for good, permanent change and not just putting on a 17-day episode that has an unsavory legacy.”

The bid committee and both councils discussed the possibility of future joint meetings with public feedback, community surveys, and outreach efforts that could take place before a bid is submitted, but no formal decisions were made.

Colin Hilton is the CEO of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation and a member of the bid committee. He said the committee and the prospect of a future Olympics could be an asset to both Summit County and Park City in solving some of the region’s pressing issues like traffic and an ever-increasing number of visitors.

“We welcome people, but I hear you, we want to welcome them in, then we want to send them back home and do it really well," said Hilton. "That’s where I think we’ve got a unique team, and you’re a part of that team. We want to know what your big goals are. What’s your vision? Because while we can’t maybe solve it financially, boy, we have some interesting connections and abilities to be a catalyst for those goals.”

The USOPC could decide on whether it will target a 2030 or 2034 Winter Olympic bid this summer.