Governor Gary Herbert said Monday that Utah and Salt Lake City are “ready, willing and able” to host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games. Herbert said, “I’m excited and optimistic for the great state of Utah and Salt Lake City, and the people of Utah to once again say we are ready, willing and able to host the Winter Games here in the great state of Utah”.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said he “wholeheartedly” endorses the idea of taking on the Games again.
Both Becker and Herbert say the state is well positioned financially and otherwise to host the Games.
An Olympic Exploratory Committee was formed in February to assess considerations such as public opinion, transportation availability, hotel accommodation and sporting venues. The committee unanimously recommended in October that Salt Lake City go for the event.
According to officials, the committee, made up of business, government, sports and community leaders, received no negative comments about trying for a repeat of the 2002 Winter Games during months of meetings. According to Gov. Herbert, 74 per cent of Utahns polled support a return of the Winter Games to the state.
In a 36-page report, the committee stated, “Utah’s Olympic legacy is strong and vibrant and ready to provide the foundation for a future Olympic Games”.
The committee says that Salt Lake City has the infrastructure in place following the 2002 Winter Olympics and that the financial benefits are too good to pass up, recommending that Salt Lake City bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic.
The report pegs the cost of a bid at less than $1 million at the USOC level and between $25 million and $30 million to compete internationally. All of the bid costs would be paid privately, said the report.
The proposed budget to host the 2026 Games is $1.67 billion, about $300 million more than the price for the 2002 Games. The costs aren’t as high as they might be for another city due to projected savings on planning costs and venue construction.
The only cost to taxpayers identified in the budget is $85 million to upgrade the bobsled, luge and skeleton track, speed skating oval, and other Olympic facilities. The budget calls for the money to be repaid from Olympic revenues, and another $75 million to be set aside for post-Games operating expenses.
Steve Price, with the Utah Olympic Exploratory Committee, said Salt Lake City is more prepared than other potential cities because of the improvements being made to the Salt Lake City International Airport and the state’s highways.
He said, “there was no burden on the taxpayers for the last Olympics, so the money that was borrowed from the state of Utah was all paid back, 100 per cent of it. For future Olympics, we are more well prepared, for example, than other potential cities because we have facilities that are in place”.
The report said the 2026 Games could be expected to produce a $5 billion economic impact, provide the equivalent of more than 30,000 jobs that last a year, and generate more than $75 million in revenues to state and local governments.
Meanwhile the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) still hasn’t decided whether to field an American city to bid for 2026. The Deseret News reports the USOC is trying to determine whether it would be better to bid for the 2024 Summer Games rather than the 2026 Winter Games. A decision is expected within the next two years.