Fraser Bullock, who is leading Salt Lake City’s bid to bring the Winter Olympics back to Utah, seems very confident of success.
“I think we will organize one or more future games. It’s a question of when,” he said last week in an interview with local television.
But will it be in 2030, the first opening of the IOC calendar? Or could the International Olympic Committee award a double prize and also name the host of 2034? While it had two strong candidates 4½ years ago for the Summer Games, the IOC selected Paris for the 2024 Olympics and Los Angeles for 2028.
The IOC does not say so. An announcement is expected early next year, with media in Salt Lake suggesting a decision in May 2023.
“Obviously I’m keeping my fingers crossed for 2030, but any time we’re asked to house them, we’ll be ready,” Bullock told the Deseret News in Utah.
The Associated Press asked Bullock for an interview, but was told he spoke only to local media. Bullock was Mitt Romney’s No. 2 when Salt Lake hosted the 2002 Games.
Under its revised but opaque bidding process, the IOC appears to have four possible candidates. Three have already hosted Winter Olympics: Sapporo (1972), Salt Lake (2002) and Vancouver (2010). There is also interest from Barcelona, which hosted the 1992 Summer Games and could bid with regions in the Pyrenees.
An IOC “technical team” was in Salt Lake City last week inspecting venues, and is in Vancouver this week. Meanwhile, a similar visit to Spain has reportedly been delayed.
Sapporo is not known to have scheduled a technical visit, but a Japanese bid is expected to be among the favorites after officially spending $13.6 billion to stage the year-delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics. At least 60% was public money and probably more with government audits showing that Olympics costs were higher than advertised.
A study by the University of Oxford indicates that Tokyo was the most expensive Olympics on record.
Sapporo held an “All Japan” conference next week, led by former prime minister Taro Aso, to promote the bid and show support from the Japanese government and businesses.
Salt Lake puts the cost of the Games at $2.2 billion, and Sapporo has a similar figure – $2.4-2.6 billion. However, Olympic expenditures usually exceed estimates and it is impossible to accurately forecast costs a decade from now.
The Winter Games have become a tough sell for the IOC. The choice for 2022 fell on Almaty, Kazakhstan and Beijing after half a dozen European candidates withdrew after failed public referendums or fears over costs.
Neither Sapporo nor Salt Lake will hold referendums. Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto said surveys of 10,000 people – online, on the streets and by post – show support between 52% and 65%, Akimoto gave no details on the methodology or reliability of surveys.
Last month, Vancouver council refused to put a referendum on the ballot for the October municipal elections. Vancouver’s proposal is dubbed the first “Indigenous-led” bid for an Olympics, with Canada’s First Nations planning a feasibility study.
Mark Conrad, who teaches sports law and ethics at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, told AP a joint award seemed possible. He is not involved in the process and is looking at a stranger.
“The Salt Lake City facilities date from 2002 and are used and in good condition,” Conrad said, also noting strong public support for the bid. “But the IOC owes a lot to Japan and I think many facilities can be there or shared through Nagano.”
Nagano hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics and paid off the debt for those Games several years ago.
With the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, it would be unusual for the IOC to stay in the United States for the 2030 Winter Games. However, if sponsorship is strong, that could change course. The IOC also generates a large portion of its broadcast revenue in North America.
IOC President Thomas Bach, who steps down in 2025, may also prefer to leave the 2034 award to his successor.
The 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympics are the only open Games on the immediate Olympic calendar. Paris, Los Angeles and Brisbane, Australia are lined up for the next three Summer Olympics.
The Italians of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo will host the 2026 Winter Olympics.
The IOC has tried to streamline its bid process, in part because corruption scandals linked to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and Tokyo in 2019 forced the resignation of IOC member Tsunekazu Takeda.
A bribery scandal also smeared the Salt Lake City selection.
Host city selection has been largely removed from the hands of grassroots IOC members who will be asked to automatically endorse the recommendation of the IOC Executive Board.
The IOC technical team in Salt Lake was not made available to the media and the names of the members were not released. Technical team members were not considered IOC members. The IOC said the members who are part of the future host commission were not “on site”.
“The IOC regularly meets, in person or virtually, with interested parties and potential hosts of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Winter Games,” the IOC said in a statement. “The IOC respects the confidentiality of all such discussions.”
Associated Press reporter Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed to this report.
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