IOC stops pretending that Salt Lake City 2034 Winter Olympics is still a question as four day tour wraps up

"You will become a role model for the IOC," Future Host Commission Chair Karl Stoss told Salt Lake City's bid team

The IOC’s Future Host Commission and the SLC-UT Winter Olympic bid committee pose for a group photo following press conference at the conclusion of a four day site inspection (GamesBids Photo)

Reporting from Salt Lake City, Utah – To gauge how likely the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will open in Salt Lake City in 2034, you need only listen to the words used by the key stakeholders when they comment on the possibility.

On Saturday members of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Future Host Commission (FHC) led by Austrian Karl Stoss ended four days of meetings and venue tours in the Utah capital, hosted by potential partners the Salt Lake City bid committee (SLC-UT).

The Salt Lake City bid was the only candidate that entered the targeted dialogue stage of the 2034 bid process. Technically, that means the FHC will conduct meticulous due diligence and report results to the Executive Board. They will carry out their own investigation before approving the project for a membership election that is already penciled in for July 24 in Paris ahead of the Summer Games.

In reality, this is a done deal.

At a concluding press conference held at a swanky private club in a speakeasy style lounge that was accessed through a piano bar, the tone was appropriately set. The T’s are crossed, the I’s are dotted – all that’s needed is a signature to make if official.

The predominately local press lobbed only softball questions at the panelists, not because they couldn’t pack heat, but because they’ve already spent months trying to find the weak links. They found none.

There is no visible opposition to the project that has consistently polled at 80 percent support.

Gathering friends around at a bar seemed the way to go, and a celebration it was.

Respecting the process, phrases like “if elected” or “if given the honor” of hosting were the required protocol. But a lot of that went away Saturday – “when” and “will” crept in from time-to-time. With non-stop praise going in both directions, it seems unimaginable that the host city contract will go unsigned.

“When I look at how I personally view the way the last several days went on a scale of one to 10, a 15,” bid President Fraser Bullock said.

“It went so well and we’re so thrilled.

“This was the best week of my life,” the former COO of Salt Lake City’s 2002 Games and Olympic Order recipient added just before the conclusion of the meeting.

Stoss talked about the quality of the venues, the people who operate them and the community programs that have been put in place to leverage the legacy of the previous Games.

“You will become a role model for the IOC,”  Stoss said, emphasis on ‘will’ added.

He also hinted that a third Games could be on the horizon should other climate capable hosts fail to emerge.

“We are quite sure we could do it here [in Salt Lake City] until 2050,” he said.

“But we have to think a little bit longer distance, what happens in 2060 or 2070? So this is the challenge we need to think about but it is a very nice challenge for us.”

He then challenged Bullock to create the role model that will bring future Games to other continents.

IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi expanded on this, saying that the Utah story needs to be shared.

“This is a hidden treasure, this city and this region,” he said.

“And everything we have seen here, more people than ourselves should know about.

“People have memories of 2002, but this has profoundly changed and this story needs to be told.”

Dubi clarified remarks he made at a community forum on Thursday morning, when he told business and political leaders that there is no need to hurry once the Games are awarded.

“The purpose of my comment was to say there are more urgent things to work on and these are some of the great programs you are delivering in the community.”

He said organizers could use these programs “to create and build momentum but not to start designing your operating plan at that point of time.”

Bullock added “it’s not that we’re going to wait five years to start doing things, we have the opportunity to make an impact now, in our communities.”

LIVEBLOG: The IOC visits Salt Lake City 2034 – Day 4

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall pointed out the benefits of the upcoming Los Angeles 2028 Summer Games to both events.

She said “we have an incredible opportunity in front of us with Los Angeles and Salt Lake City hopefully being back-to-back.”

“This is our time here in the United States.”

United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) chair Gene Sykes added “We’re intent at the USOPC in taking advantage of this generational period. It’s been 30 years since we had the same experience of one Games following the next in such a short period of time.”

“We’re very determined to use this long runway to engage the broadest group of Americans possible.”

Mendenhall, who recently won an additional four year term in office, agreed that bringing the Olympics back to Utah would be one of the greatest accomplishments of her tenure.

She said “There is so much opportunity [for Salt Lake City], NHL is a possibility, MLB is a possibility, Olympics is a possibility…”

In February the Utah Legislature passed a bill to approve almost USD $2 billion towards a hockey arena and baseball stadium. These projects could be complete before the Olympics should the city successfully lure teams to the capital.

On Friday ESPN cited an unnamed source confirming the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes would be moving to Salt Lake City at the start of next season.

On Saturday Mayor Mendenhall told she knew nothing about the deal.

“I can tell you I’m excited at the possibility,” she added.

The IOC and SLC-UT have refused to link the new venues to the Winter Olympics masterplan, but will consider changing venues if new opportunities became available.

A new hockey arena could replace either the proposed Maverik Center in West Valley City or Peaks Ice Arena in Provo, adding capacity.

A baseball stadium could host the temporary big air facility.

The IOC’s FHC will travel to the French Alps from April 22 to 26 for a similar tour of venues proposed by the preferred candidate for the 2030 Winter Games.

Both bids will know by June whether they’ll appear on election ballots at the IOC’s Paris Session in July.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of 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.

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