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Boston Out for Summer Olympics… Salt Lake in for the Winter Olympics?

“Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics flamed out in spectacular fashion this week, with local organizers and the U.S. Olympic Committee deciding to part ways after the mayor and Massachusetts’ governor refused to be rushed into a decision putting taxpayers on the hook if the games went over budget,” says the Associated Press.

One person’s loss is another person’s gain, I suppose. The questions are whether that person is Salt Lake and whether it really is a gain. In 2012, Salt Lake City indicated their intention to bid on the 2026 Winter Games (funny how that coincides with the beginning of what became the Mountain Accord Process). With regard to Olympics, the Summer games are usually more profitable than the Winter games, so it was somewhat assumed that the US would try to get the summer 2024 games (and not focus on 2026). With Boston’s withdrawal, that likely means a US bid for summer 2024 is done. Some people are pushing Los Angeles as an alternative but I would assume the Olympic Committee won’t look kindly on the press associated with a US city opting out. So, I’d bet our aspirations for 2024 are done.

That leaves winter 2026 as the next up. The front running US city is probably Salt Lake (others include Denver, Anchorage, Reno, and Lake Placid). We still have some infrastructure from the 2002 games and after Sochi’s $50 billion price tag, I would assume the narrative will be that you don’t have to spend $50 billion to host an olympics. Salt Lake fits that bill.

Of course, European cities like Dresden (Germany) and Trento (Italy) are looking to make bids. Yet, European finances, aren’t exactly in good shape and residents there could push back against the expense of the Winter Olympics.

What does that all mean? We won’t know until 2019 when the Olympic Committee will ultimately decide on the venue. Yet, right now the Olympic Committee is pushing Olympic Agenda 2020 which ” calls for a stronger focus on sustainability, legacy, and transparency, while making it easier for host cities to tailor Games that meet their needs rather than trying to fit a template.” That sounds right up Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker’s sweet spot.

Right now it looks like SLC has a better than fighting chance. With Boston’s bow-out for the previous summer games it appears we will likely, at least, get serious consideration. I, personally, will be reading the Mountain Accord tea leaves as an indicator of the our region’s chances. I can hear it now from UDOT, “we need a tunnel to Park City to service these games.” Maybe it’s worth it. Maybe it’s not.

The long game is always the most interesting.




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