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Despite strong polling, a 2nd Olympics could be a tough sell for some Utahns

Fireworks explode over downtown Salt Lake City during the closing ceremony of the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2002.
Laura Rauch
Fireworks explode over downtown Salt Lake City during the closing ceremony of the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2002.

The Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games continues to pursue a second Olympics in either 2030 or 2034, but some are voicing concerns about the negative impacts the event could have.

Back in 2002, the greater Park City area hosted alpine and cross-country skiing, freestyle skiing, ski jumping, biathlon, snowboarding, as well as skeleton, luge and bobsleigh events. It would likely again host a similar number of events at a future winter games.

So the governments of Summit County and Park City have kicked off a series of listening events aimed at gathering community feedback on the prospect of another Utah Olympics. During the first meeting on the tour, held in Kamas, the crowd’s mood was tepid at the prospect of an encore.

“[The 2002 Olympics] seemed to throw gasoline on an already smoldering fire as far as housing, as far as development,” said Kamas resident Doug Fryer, who also worked in emergency services during the 2002 games.

The region has experienced skyrocketing housing costs in recent years. It also has consistent traffic issues during the winter season, thanks in part to popular nearby resorts Park City Mountain and Deer Valley. Concerns over the Olympics’ effect on housing affordability and availability, traffic and transportation were at the front of people’s minds.

High school student Emily Rodriguez wasn’t even born yet when the Olympics came to Utah in 2002 and said while the prospect of an Olympics in her hometown is exciting, she also has some hesitancy. After a recent school project, she now worries about what impact the Olympics could have on those who are already struggling to pay rent.

“I had to investigate the problems in the community and housing was the biggest one that we had,” she said. “It’s kind of concerning, especially with Hispanics in the community that don’t know a lot of the Olympic situation.”

According to Park City Municipal, almost 9,000 people commute from outside the community to work each day.

Despite the concerns in Summit County, a recent Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll showed that 79% of Utahns approve of the Olympics returning to the state.

Although Fryer does have reservations about hosting a second games, he also thinks it could be an opportunity for Utah to address those ongoing problems head-on.

“These problems still exist, but I think it’s an opportunity to show that we could do it correctly,” he said.

Park City and Summit County will be gathering community feedback through Oct. 6. The IOC recently announced it is postponing its decision on the host of the 2030 Games to next fall.

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
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