Weber County officials aid in bid to bring Winter Olympics back to Utah
OGDEN — Crafting a successful bid for Utah for the 2030 or 2034 Winter Olympics isn’t just the task of Salt Lake City, which would be the host city.
And the time to start planning isn’t in 2029.
Efforts are well underway to bring the Olympics back and Ogden officials, among many others, are helping out. Getting an inventory of hotel rooms is but one part of the process and Sara Toliver, head of Visit Ogden, has been aiding in that effort, along with her counterparts at other local tourism offices around the state.
The team organizing the Salt Lake City bid “needs to demonstrate that Northern Utah can provide 24,000 hotel rooms as part of the bid process,” she said.
It may seem mundane, but the teams, Olympic workers and visitors who’d come would need places to stay, so demonstrating that there are enough rooms for them is key. Indeed, it’s one of the preparatory elements singled out by Fraser Bullock, head of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games.
“We are intensely engaged. We’re actually preparing a bid,” he told Sports Travel Magazine, a trade publication catering to sports events organizers. That, Bullock went on, entails detailing a “vision,” securing accommodations and hammering out accords for use of event venues.
Toliver said she has served as a liaison between Utah Olympic bid organizers and hotel operators in getting a room count. Beyond that, though, local tourism officials see big potential if the Winter Olympics return to Utah.
Visit Ogden crafted a 10-year plan to develop the tourism infrastructure between now and 2030 in Weber County. The Olympics, or potential for a return of the Olympics, figures big.
“With Utah up for the Olympics in 2030, opportunities to put Ogden on the global map are abundant,” the plan reads.
Getting the local public on board, though, will be key.
“Hosting such an event and doing it well is more than a function of local attractions, venues, lodging and transportation — it’s a function of community,” the plan goes on. “Ensuring Weber County as a community is ready and willing to host such an event is the first step in helping to ensure a world-class experience and put Weber County on the global map.”
Demonstrating that Weber County can accommodate large-scale athletic and recreation events is also part of the local strategy. “Successfully hosting such events will provide proof-of-concept for the county’s capability and capacity to host larger events. This proof-of-concept should help increase the likelihood of Weber County being chosen as an Olympic venue,” the report reads.
Weber County already has a track record in that regard.
Snowbasin, the ski resort, and The Ice Sheet on the Weber State University campus served as venues for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. And in a Utah Sports Commission report from last year, both are identified as possible venues for future Olympic and Paralympic events — Snowbasin for alpine skiing, para alpine skiing and para snowboard events and The Ice Sheet for curling and wheelchair curling.
Mindful of the possibilities, Weber County commissioners last year earmarked $150,000 to study the possibility of upgrading The Ice Sheet, a county-owned facility, with an eye to the possible return of the Winter Olympics.
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell, involved in the Olympic effort in Utah in 2002, is also involved in promoting Utah’s bid for the Olympics for 2030 or 2034. He sits on the Utah Sports Commission Board of Directors and the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games Governing Board.
“We have a very strong, very competitive bid packet,” he said.
The venues used in 2002 are still standing, getting more use even, which would reduce preparation costs dramatically. The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, for one, cost Russia $50 billion, Caldwell said, and Utah “can do it for a fraction of that.”
What’s more, Utah has a solid base of potential volunteers, also very important in organizing an Olympic effort, and the varied venues sit in a relatively compact area radiating out from Salt Lake City, he said.
Still, other locales around the world, including Vancouver, Canada, are interested in hosting the Winter Olympics in 2030 or 2034. While local officials are eager, Utah by no means has a lock on the Olympics.
Yes, many in the state are working hard to promote Utah’s bid. “But nothing is for sure at this point,” Toliver said.
Bullock told Sports Travel Magazine that Utah’s efforts, while already underway, would likely get more intense after the Winter Olympics next year in Beijing, China, scheduled to go from Feb. 4-20.