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Gold, Silver and Bronze

Originally pitched as costing taxpayers next to nothing, Winter Olympics redux ups the ante by $15M.


  • Kelan Lyons

Inversion isn’t the only wintry mix in Salt Lake City’s air these days—there’s also a palpable excitement among local and state leaders that our fair metropolis could host another Winter Games in 2030.

“I not only get stopped in the grocery store about potholes, but now I get stopped about Olympics, too,” Mayor Jackie Biskupski said Tuesday afternoon, when athletic bigwigs and political heavyweights alike held a public briefing to explain how Salt Lake City can best position itself to welcome the world to the Beehive State … again. Preaching a message of positivity and transparency and a little Utah exceptionalism—basically a requirement when politicians talk about the Olympics—the Salt Lake Executive Committee for the Games has high hopes that Utah will land another bid sometime in the future.

“We will host another games,” Fraser Bullock, former chief operations officer for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, vowed. “It’s just a matter of when.”

It’s also going to take a bit of public money. Former Senate President Wayne Niederhauser said he hopes the Legislature will appropriate funding to “enhance and increase the number of events that we’re doing.” That’s in addition to the roughly $40 million lawmakers pledged to dole out over 10 years for upkeep. Niederhauser said his cash wishlist might not come this year, and it might not come all at once, “but over the next little while we’re going to try and get $15 million to enhance events. It’s the seed money, the gap money, the leverage money that the sports commission uses to bring events to our state.”

One of the local Olympic leadership’s big selling points for hosting another games is that it will be privately funded, and would generate a lot of money for the state. Jeff Robbins, head of the Utah Sports Commission, said Utah has hosted more than 800 events at Olympic venues since the year 2000, generating an economic impact of almost $2 billion.

But Niederhauser admitted that some cash will have to come from taxpayers’ pockets. “There isn’t any model in the world that has worked that hasn’t taken a little bit of public money on occasion,” he said. “In the meantime, we need to be very supportive as a state and as a private sector in making sure that these assets are in a top-notch condition, and that we are using money to leverage events and getting the world here.”

Niederhauser admitted he didn’t initially share the vision that Utah’s legacy is tied to the Olympics, but he’s come around. “I see that Utah can be the place for winter sports,” he said. Now, he thinks Utah could make Olympic bids “on a rotation basis. Every 28 years, or whatever the IOC [International Olympic Committee] would allow, because we have functioning, up-to-date venues, people are excited about being here, we put the Olympics on successfully. They make money, that money’s put forth to create more legacy, more housing, more opportunities for athletes to excel, and we can be that spot, I believe.”

Niederhauser said the committee plans to approach lawmakers this year. They’ll stretch out the funding over a dozen years, meaning they won’t spend it all in one place. “The ask is for $15 million. At the end of the day, we’re not sure what we’ll get out of the Legislature, whether we’ll get it incrementally, or whether we’ll get it in one tranche.”

Wrapping up, Bullock said it was an honor to be “America’s choice” for hosting another games. “It really is a world community opportunity, and we’re in line.”