Salt Lake City’s bid for a future Olympic Winter Games won praise from International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach Thursday during rare comments about the ongoing site selection process from the influential leader.
When asked his impressions about his 30 minute meeting on Monday with Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games (SLC-UT) leadership that included Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Bach told GamesBids.com that “the call went very well.”
“There was this great unity between the city and the Governor and the USOPC (United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee) President Susanne Lyons,” Bach explained following the conclusion of a three day IOC Executive Board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Other projects showing interest in bidding for the Winter Games have lacked this cohesion with infighting among regions within a Pyrenees-Barcelona joint bid in Spain, and a split city council and regional disparity in Vancouver, Canada.
On Wednesday Bach commented on a 2030 bid by Sapporo that has residents split over whether following up a difficult Tokyo 2020 Games in Japan is the right choice. Bach defended the Northern city, explaining that plans are to use existing facilities setting the Games at a “different starting point,” and there will be no COVID-19 countermeasures to deal with.
Ukraine has also entered into dialogue with the IOC.
“There was great unity and enthusiasm there. This was a very good feeling,” Bach noted about Salt Lake City with a smile during a press conference where he was also peppered with questions about diplomatic boycotts of the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Games and criticism of the IOC’s handling of the alleged Chinese detention of tennis star and Olympian Peng Shuai.
Despite the diplomatic boycott by the United States, SLC-UT will send a small delegation to China to observe, and to further discuss plans with the IOC.
IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi told GamesBids.com “we will have those delegations in Beijing to further discuss what we’ve been doing in the meantime and the further reflections on the New Norm and some of the potential savings to reduce to cost and complexities.”
He said discussions have revolved around the bid’s plans to reuse existing facilities – many that had been constructed to stage the 2002 Winter Games – and a strategy for the Olympic Village.
But the USOPC has yet to identify whether 2030 is the target year to host the Games, or whether it will allow some breathing room after the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Games and seek to stage the 2034 edition instead. Bach hinted that the USOPC has been seeking guidance on this question.
“The dialogue will continue to see when Salt Lake City would like to enter into a closer dialogue with the IOC and they are also looking for our advice a little bit,” Bach said.
Bach was coy when asked if the IOC might award the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games simultaneously, as the organization did with Paris 2024 and LA 2028 when both strong bids were on the table. He said “that is In the hands of the Future Host Commission.”
“I’m not allowed to be a member.”
Under new rules, the Future Host Commission recommends “preferred candidates” to the Executive Board for approval. As president, Bach is quite influential in this process whether he is on the Commission or not. Earlier this year the Executive Board ushered through a 2032 Summer Games bid by Brisbane, Australia to become the first host city elected this way.
There is no set timetable guiding the awarding of the Winter Games. Dialogue with interested jurisdictions continue until the right partnership emerges and is singled out as the preferred bid.
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.