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Olympic officials see Utah’s vision to ‘elevate’ the 2034 Olympic Games

Kristine Weller
Utah's Bid Committee meets with the International Olympic Commission's Future Host Commission at the Univeristy of Utah.

Olympic officials are in Utah touring venues and infrastructure for a potential 2034 Olympics. Here's more on their first day in the Beehive State.

The International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission, along with IOC and Olympic and Paralympic leaders, met with Utah’s Olympic Bid Committee at the University of Utah Wednesday. There Utah presented its vision for the 2034 Olympic Games with “elevate” as the main theme.

Utah’s Bid Commission said the state wants to elevate local communities, elevate sport and elevate the Games experience. The commission also wants to unify people at the community, state and national level.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said Utah is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. So, many current residents didn’t get to experience the 2002 Games, yet 80% support the Olympic Games coming back.

Further, Mendenhall said all of Utah’s political leaders support the return of the Games.

“It has nothing to do and actually supersedes politics," she said. "It's an example that I know our governor and lieutenant governor are proud of in the state of Utah, the ‘secret sauce’ we call it, when we come together to do hard things.”

Mendenhall also said the Games align with Utah’s goals. By 2030, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County and Summit County will have 100% net renewable energy, something appealing to the IOC. The state is also working to bring in more passenger rails, which would also support the Olympics.

“It's not that the Games are going to make something happen that we weren't going to do anyway," Mendenhall said. "It aligns perfectly with our future ambitions. And we know that the Games can and will be a catalyst to better achieve our ambitions.”

The Future Host Commission appreciated how Utah has galvanized the Olympic spirit, continuing to draw global competitive events. Since 2002, Utah has hosted over 1,100 summer and winter sporting events and athletes from more than 30 countries train here.

Catherine Raney Norman is a four-time Olympic speed skater and the chair of the bid committee. She said Utah excels at cultivating young athletes.

“It's about inspiring our youth, whether they go on to compete in the Games, that is wonderful, and we celebrate that, but it's also about the values that they learn through sport,” Raney Norman said.

Future Olympic Commission Chair Karl Stoss said the 2002 Games had the most attendees of any winter sporting event. That year Utah officials worked to improve the Games experience.

Tanja Kari, a former Paralympian, said the 2002 Games was the first to have the same organizing committee for the Olympics and Paralympics.

“I felt the difference here. It was quality, it was welcoming," she said. "It was an absolutely excellent delivery of the Paralympic Games.”

Raney Norman said Olympic athletes said more resources for their families would help during the Games. That’s why Utah is launching an athlete family initiative to help athletes’ relatives find affordable housing, tickets and transportation during the 2034 Games.

Fraser Bullock, president of the Utah Bid Committee, said all Utah venues are within an hour of the Olympic Village.

“I remember back in ‘02 I could go to an event in the mountains in the morning and go to speed skating in the afternoon," he said. "I could go to figure skating downtown or short track, all in one day, three to four events in one day, it was spectacular.”

The Future Host Commission complemented Utah’s preparation, specifically its cultivation of young athletes and Olympic venues already built. Christophe Dubi, the Olympic Games executive director, said young people are the future Olympic leaders.

“At some point, I will be replaced by a new generation of management," Dubi said. "This is the same for the foundation, this is the same for the commission. So this is the opportunity to work long term.”

Stoss wouldn’t confirm if Utah will be awarded the 2034 Games but said he has a good feeling about it. Salt Lake City is the preferred host for the 2034 Games and is the only official bid being considered.

The IOC will select a host for the 2034 Games on July 24 or Pioneer Day in Utah.