For Utahns hoping to once again host the Olympic Games, Friday was an important step towards that goal, as the United States Olympic Committee selected Salt Lake as its choice for the future site for a Winter Olympics and Paralympics event.
Colin Hilton, head of the Olympic Legacy Foundation, said a lot of countries don’t want to host the Olympics, but Salt Lake has the support of the community and local leadership.
Hilton told KPCW Tuesday that it wasn’t a slam dunk, so he was happy that Salt Lake was chosen over Denver, Colorado. A third candidate, Reno/Tahoe, decided to withdraw its bid about a month ago.
The word came last week from USOC’s board meeting in San Francisco.
“They just told us to be prepared for a phone call towards the end of the day last Friday. There was a little bit of anxiety given all of the issues that the USOC was facing over the last couple of weeks. I was pleasantly surprised that they went ahead and made the decision and gave the nod to Utah.”
Hilton clarified that the date is open, but the USOC is planning for 2030. “They’re pointing out for a date in the future whatever that might be. The focus, and their statements are yes, for a process for 2030.”
It helped that Salt Lake doesn’t have to build its venues from scratch.
“That is the beauty of what we like to showcase that we have existing facilities that are being maintained. They’re being used in a dynamic way. We’re four times busier in use of our facilities than we were right after the ’02 Games. When the USOC visited they were just drawn to the fact that we have so much youth and so much use that’s beyond just sport. We use these facilities as public recreation centers and we use them for the general public to come do some very unique activities at these facilities that help us generate a little bit of money.”
Utah can also show off its history as the host of the 2002 Winter Games. But we also asked Hilton if they were impacted by the memory of the bid scandal.
“That is something that still people remember. That is in stark contrast, we have that dynamic and then we have, what a lot of people viewed was one of the best games ever that were put on. Especially how our games, five months after 9/11 really brought the world together. People remember that as well. People more now are seeing and hearing from their countries about their athletes having terrific experiences coming to the annual Deer Valley World Cup. To going to a speed skating event at the oval or a sliding event at the park.”
Going forward, Hilton said that the International Olympic Committee doesn’t have its process defined for a Winter Games selection.
“The honest reality is there’s no defined process yet for 2030. That’s a little bit of where we need to remain patient and now develop a partnership with the USOC in a much greater way than we’ve had. That to me is the exciting thing because what they have essentially said is we’re behind Utah. We’re going to be partners with Utah to figure out how we might do back-to-back games with Los Angeles in 2028.”
In the end, Hilton said the USOC announcement was an endorsement of Salt Lake’s performance 16 years ago, as well as the legacy it left behind.
“For me this is a bit of an affirmation by the USOC. To say, wow Utah has not only put on a great Games back in ’02 but they have kept the facilities well maintained. They’re dynamic, active. They’re used by all ages, all abilities. Especially getting youth and not just our national teams involved in training. They’ve continued to hold events that really showcase a level of support that I don’t think any other region in the country has gone to this level. For me, the rational for the USOC was to say we couldn’t have a better partner in Utah and we’re fully behind them. When that opportunity arises we’re going to be in a partnership with Utah going forward.”