International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach engaged with the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics bid committee Monday during a virtual call that was described as “very productive and positive” by bid Chair Catherine Raney Norman.
The two-and-a-half hour online meeting was hastily organized after the emerging Omicron Covid-19 variant threat derailed plans for an in-person meeting in Switzerland last week. The working meeting that was geared to foster greater collaboration towards an Olympic bid was attended by Bach for the first 30 minutes.
The IOC Chief met with Raney Norman as well as Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and bid CEO and President Fraser Bullock.
“We were pleased to have president Bach join us, he is such a wonderful human being in terms of his warmth,” Bullock told reporters following the meeting.
“He welcomed us and was thrilled we were part of this process, along with other cities, but took time to speak with each person that was on the call and just a wonderful host.”
The meeting coincided with the U.S. announcement of a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, a topic that Bullock said was not discussed.
The remainder of the “introductory meeting” was spent exchanging ideas and receiving advice.
“It is really a next step in the formative process towards an eventual bid,” Bullock added.
A Salt Lake City delegation already met with the IOC’s influential Winter Games Future Host Commission, led by Octavian Morariu, on November 12 in a 30 minute call that was led by United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) Chair Susanne Lyons and was attended by Utah Governor Spencer Cox.
A small delegation will travel to Beijing for a meeting during the February Games.
An in-person meeting at Olympic headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland will be scheduled for the Spring, according to Bullock who mapped the path towards a potential IOC announcement of the preferred host.
There are no pre-set start or finish lines for Olympic host bids under a new IOC process that leverages a continuous dialogue among interested parties to identify a potential preferred candidate. Other bidders including Sapporo in Japan, Vancouver in Canada, Pyrenees and Barcelona in Spain and Ukraine are known to have engaged the IOC in dialogue. There could be other interested parties in the hunt but the new IOC policy dictates that all discussions remain private leaving any publication of details up to the potential bids.
The IOC Executive Board could announce a preferred candidate and recommend it to the full IOC membership for rubber-stamping at any time.
“It could happen any time when the parties come together with a meeting of the minds,” Bullock said.
“So we are pressing full speed ahead in our preparations to be ready when that door can open, because we never know when it can open and it could open at any time.”
The IOC surprised many, including rival bidders, when it suddenly named Brisbane as the preferred 2032 Summer Games host early this year, then officially elected the city in July. More than eleven years ahead of the planned opening ceremony – the typical-ramp up period had been seven – the Australian city was the first host to be named under the bid process that eliminates the typical head-to-head voting showdown among cities.
Salt Lake City has been identified by the USOPC as the next U.S. city to bid for a Winter Games, but no specific target year has been determined. Salt Lake City officials have said they are gunning to host in 2030, the next available Winter Games, to fully leverage legacy facilities from the 2002 Olympics before they need major refurbishments.
But the 2030 edition will be staged only 18 months after the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Games, and the timing could dilute the domestic earning potential of both events. LA 2028 signed an exclusive contract that gives the organizing committee exclusivity for a four-year window. LA officials need to be in agreement about a possible 2030 Games or the USOPC might have to target 2034 instead.
“Any time you have a potential situation with back-to-back Games there are a lot of things that need to be worked through and I would say the USOPC has been incredible in terms of providing leadership in that process,” Bullock said when pressed for a progress report by GamesBids.com.
“The USOPC has led the work through many high-level concepts and now its more into the detailed work of which edition of the Games to go forward.”
But Bullock refused guess when the USOPC would select either the 2030 or 2034 edition, explaining that the governing body has instead focused on the delivery of teams for the Tokyo 2020 Games held this past summer and the Beijing 2022 Winter Games in February, both amid an ongoing pandemic.
The 2026 Winter Games will be hosted jointly in Northern Italy by Milan-Cortina.