Time is quickly running out for U.S.-based bids aiming to host the Olympic Winter Games in 2026, or perhaps in 2030 – but some interested cities are taking advantage of the upcoming PyeongChang 2018 Games to kindle public interest.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will slam the doors shut to any new candidates on the March 31 application deadline, and that may too exclude non-committed cities from hosting in 2030 if the IOC decides to allocate both the 2026 and 2030 Games at the same time as it did last September. At the IOC’s Session in Lima, Paris and Los Angeles were awarded the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games, respectively.
That creates a predicament for United States Olympic Committee (USOC) who see hosting in 2026 problematic as it focuses instead on the organization of the LA Games two-years later, but could be interested in the 2030 opportunity. The USOC has yet to declare its official interest to the IOC in hosting a future Winter Games, and will be excluded from any official bidding opportunities in PyeongChang this month. But behind the scenes it’s likely that discussions about the U.S. involvement in hosting the Games over the next decade are being held with IOC officials.
Calgary, Sion, Stockholm and Sapporo are all included on the IOC’s “interested candidate” list, having all participated with their National Olympic Committee’s permission in the Dialog Phase of the bid process. But of those four, only Sion has committed to formalizing an application, and the Swiss city will face a risky referendum later this year. Calgary is edging closer to getting the government financial support it requires while Stockholm has yet to receive any indication of government support. Sapporo’s bid seems notional at this point, as it would represent the fourth straight Games in Asia and the second in Japan in six years.
Yet these cities will have the opportunity to send official delegations to PyeongChang and attend meetings as part of a special Observers Program, and they can promote their bids inside their national houses at the Games.
A U.S.-based bid represents an excellent bail-out plan should other potential candidates to host the Games fall through. Four cities dropped out of both the 2022 and 2024 bid campaigns, leaving only two remaining candidates for each.
Salt Lake City, with well-maintained venues still in operation from the 2002 Olympics, could easily step in if necessary – and the Utah government is quickly ramping up efforts to put approvals together ahead of the application deadline.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported this weekend that a report expected from the bid exploratory committee will recommend this week that Utah pursue another Games, and that there are plans in place to quickly move the recommendation through the relevant government entities.
In Denver, the city that infamously rejected the right to host the 1976 Winter Games after it bid hard to earn them, officials are quickly ramping-up public consultation efforts – and have planned online sessions over the next week ahead of the PyeongChang Games. But more work and cost will be required to ready the Colorado capital for the Games making it less attractive than the Utah alternative.
The public tends to agree as a poll in Utah last year revealed a stunning 89 per cent support a bid, while public push-back over the fears of cost overruns and a post-Olympic hangover remain in Denver.
Reno-Taho has been quietly waiting for a bidding opportunity for several years, and is up for a chance in 2026 or 2030. But the Reno-Tahoe Coalition is being less proactive, instead waiting for the USOC to make a move.
“We’re waiting to get the go-ahead,” Coaltion CEO Jon Killoran told local media last month. “We are in regular contact with USOC and IOC leadership. If they choose to have a process, if they feel it could work, we stand ready to present a plan.”
While U.S. bid leadership have no formalized roles in PyeongChang, many will be on hand under other Olympic capacities and will certainly be making clear that they are ready to step in and host the Games next decade should the need arise.
The PyeongChang Games open February 9 and run until February 25.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.