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Utah's Winter Olympics Bid Gathers Momentum With Talks Expected To Ramp Up After Tokyo Games

Photo of the ski jump.
Brian Grimmett
Lindsey Van launching off the 90 meter hill at the Utah Olympic Park. Fraser Bullock, President and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee For The Games, said the bid to host the winter games again is showing promising signs.

The bid to bring the Winter Olympics back to Utah is gathering pace. Susanne Lyons, chair of the U.S.Olympic and Paralympic Committee, recently said they’re “poised and ready” to talk to the International Olympic Committee about Salt Lake City’s bid to host the games in 2030.

That’s promising news to Fraser Bullock. He’s President and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee For The Games. He also served as the Chief Operating Officer for the 2002 Salt Lake Organizing Committee. KUER’s Pamela McCall spoke with him about Salt Lake City’s bid.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Pamela McCall: How significant is that statement from Lyons?

Fraser Bullock: It's a great statement from our number one partner in this endeavor. So we have been collaborating together to examine 2030 [or] 2034 and it's nice to see some momentum — although not a final decision for which games — but some momentum very positively towards 2030.

PM: Why don't we know yet whether the bid is for 2030 or the 2034 games and when might we know?

FB: I am hopeful that we will know this year. Certainly I am endeavoring to have a decision before Beijing [Olympics 2022]. And the reason is that we have Los Angeles in 2028 with the Summer Games, and we have to make sure that everything we do is supportive of L.A. One of our key revenue streams is domestic sponsorships. Those domestic sponsorships also impact L.A., and so we have to make sure anything we do in the domestic sponsorship revenue area helps them and doesn't hurt them in any way.

PM: You were the chief operating officer for the 2002 Salt Lake Organizing Committee. How is the process of bidding on the Olympics now different from back then?

FB: The games were awarded seven years before the date of hosting. It was very competitive. Many cities would bid and there was one day where everything was voted on and decided and we ended up with one winner and many who did not win the games — losers, so to speak. Cities would spend tens of millions of dollars preparing these bids and many would go away losers. And it left a bad taste in their mouth. Instead of that process, highly competitive defined in a single day, they migrated to what they call a dialog.

PM: Where would you say that Salt Lake City is in that process right now?

FB: We've entered the dialog phase with them. We've notified the IOC. We've been in discussions with them. They're early, but they know of our interest for either '30 or '34. We are waiting post-Tokyo to step those discussions up to the next level.

PM: Fraser, the world is shifting rapidly — from the pandemic to climate change. How do you make plans to host the Winter Olympics almost eight or 13 years away when there are so many unknowns?

FB: One of the big elements of hosting a games is preparing for uncertainties. For 2002, I remember going through 800 different scenarios of things that could happen. It was contingency planning, although none of us could have foreseen what happened on 9/11. In a similar case here with Tokyo, nobody would have foreseen a pandemic. That wasn't in any of our scenarios.

PM: What do you say to critics who are raising concerns about the potential for environmental damage the games may bring —along with the strain on water resources?

FB: There are a couple of things that are very important for our hosting, and that is all the venues are in place. All of the infrastructure is in place. We don't need anything new. That is very different from most of the potential hosts around the world. Then it comes to what about the operation of the games. Starting in 2030, they say your games have to have a positive impact, not just neutral, but a positive impact on the environment. So, we're already in early designs and early thinking of how we structure our games to accomplish that important goal.

PM: Fraser, when will we likely know whether the latest bid is successful?

FB: Oh, that's the big question. I wish I knew. We'll be working hard. The normal timeframe for awarding a 2030 games would be 2023. I believe that there's a chance the 2030 games could be awarded next year in 2022, but certainly no later than 2023.

Pamela is KUER's All Things Considered Host.
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