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Report says volunteerism, environmental commitments help Utah’s Olympic bid

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2002 ,file photo, Georg Hackl, of Germany, speeds past an Olympic logo during a practice run for the men's singles luge at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in Park City, Utah. Among the three cities that have put forth serious proposals to host the Winter Games in 2030 and 2023, only Salt Lake City's bid appears ready. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
Elise Amendola/AP
In this Feb. 9, 2002 photo, Georg Hackl, of Germany, speeds past an Olympic logo during a practice run for the men's singles luge at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in Park City, Utah.

A new report from the University of Utah says the social and environmental characteristics of the Beehive State position it well to host a future Olympic Winter Games.

One big reason Utah stands out as an Olympic contender is because the infrastructure is already in place, since the facilities used in the 2002 Games have been well-maintained.

That’s according to Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute Director of Economic Research Nate Lloyd. He helped author a new report about Utah’s bid to host either the 2030 or 2034 Winter Games.

“When you look back at the 2002 Winter Games, there was about $480 million of capital investment made, and that’s for permanent structures,” Lloyd said. “This time around, it’s only expected to be around $23 million.”

Most of that $23 million would go towards upgrading and improving existing facilities.

“It just has less of a footprint or less of an impact on the environment when you’re not having to do more construction up in the mountain regions,” he said.

Lloyd said that’s attractive to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has a renewed focus on combating climate change.

A recent report from Loughborough University found that less than 50% of previous Winter Games host resorts will have viable snowfall by 2050. Salt Lake City is expected to have ample snow through 2080.

The report also calls Park City’s sustainability goals “the most comprehensive of any North American city.”

Park City has joined other mountain towns in setting the target of running on net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Researchers also looked at the social and demographic factors of Utah, and how it could benefit the Olympic bid.

Utah is the youngest state in the union, and one of the most physically active.

Additionally, a variety of research shows the state leads the country in volunteerism, which Lloyd said is important, given that there would be a need for around 25,000 volunteers if the Olympics returned.

“When the IOC or others are looking at this, they just see how this volunteer spirit of Utahns really positions us well to be prepared for another Olympics,” Lloyd said.

Another data point boosting the bid is residents’ passion for a future Games. Polling from the Deseret News and Hinckley Institute of Politics found that 82% of Utahns are supportive of hosting another Olympics.

One thing Utah could improve on, Lloyd said, is public transit – specifically between Park City and the airport.

“I was curious myself and went on the transit app — UTA’s app to plan your trip — and it was a two plus hour journey this morning if I were going from the airport to Park City with a couple of transfers," Lloyd said.

"And I think that only got me as far as Kimball Junction too by the way, so yeah certainly I think UTA will need some more bus routes and help with that last leg of the journey.”

Lloyd cited the new TRAX light rail green line attaching downtown Salt Lake with the airport as a recent quality upgrade.

The IOC isn’t expected to make a decision on the 2030 and 2034 Games until next year.