SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The next step in bringing a future Olympic Games back to Utah is set to take place over 5,000 miles away next month.
Members of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, led by President and CEO Fraser Bullock and Bid Chair Catherine Raney Norman will be heading to Lausanne, Switzerland to meet with the International Olympic Committee to discuss a potential bid.
Although a visit to the Olympic Capital may sound like fun and games, Raney Norman, a former Olympian herself, is considering this a business trip. The objective: lay the groundwork to bring another Olympic Games to Utah in either 2030 or 2034.
“We’re extremely focused and I think it’s an important stepping stone in this process,” Raney Norman explains.
Although Raney Norman, a Wisconsinite-turned-Utahn competed in four Olympic Winter Games in her career as a speed skater, meeting with the IOC for the first time in her position as Bid Chair, is drawing similar feelings that she had while representing her country in a race on the world’s stage.
“It’s just such an honor to be in this role as an athlete, as a female, as a sports leader, to be able to represent and have that voice for our state or city and the athletes,” she says. “It’s a huge honor and a huge responsibility that I take very seriously, and hold near and dear to my heart, and recognize that this is a tremendous opportunity for the United States to have.”
The 2002 Salt Lake Games were the last time the U.S. hosted the world’s grandest sporting event, which began for the first time in the modern era in 1896 but has roots in ancient Greece. Los Angeles is set to put America back in the center of the sporting world for the Summer Games in 2030. If the local committee can bring the 2030 Games to Utah, it would be the first time since 1936 that a country has hosted back-to-back Olympics and the first time ever with the alternating two-year schedule.
Should the 2030 Games not materialize for Salt Lake, the committee has also expressed an interest in hosting the Olympics in 2034.
While it could be either a 28 or 32-year gap in between the lighting of an Olympic torch in Utah, Raney Norman’s pitch is going to be simple; the flame never went out in Salt Lake. The spirit is still alive and well, and the facilities that hosted the Games in ’02 are still in great shape.
“I think it’s absolutely important and critical to highlight that we have wonderful legacy venues that are more active than what they were in 2002,” she explains citing that not only are the ski sports venues in the Park City area still in use by many Olympians in training, the Olympic Oval in Kearns is still a training hub for the U.S. Speedskating Team. “These venues help to invigorate our communities and inspire our youth.”
The fact that many of the buildings, facilities, and infrastructures in the state have withstood the test of time may be one of the committee’s strongest points to make when competing against the likes of Sapporo, Japan; Barcelona, Spain; Vancouver, Canada; and Ukraine.
Several host cities, even in recent Olympic Games, have struggled to get their world-class venues up and running in timing for the first events, and many have left their facilities to go to waste in the years afterward.
Another point that will certainly be made in Switzerland is that since hosting the Games near the beginning of the new millennium, Utah has continued to grow. With the nation’s youngest population, the fastest-growing economy, and a booming sports landscape, Raney Norman will have plenty to boast about when she pitches Utah to the IOC.
“Personally, one of the things that I have always enjoyed about living here has been you can have a good job because we are a major metropolitan city. We are innovative and progressive in our business, but you can play really hard here,” she brags. “And we have these beautiful mountains, we have incredible trails, and we just sort of have that mindset and that culture of sport here and I think sets us aside from many other cities.”
Should Utah host a future Games, and Raney Norman says they’ll have a better idea of which opening to focus on by this year, she’s confident that residents will show up in droves to support the effort. Getting an Olympic volunteer’s jacket, one of the hottest items in Utah fashion back in 2002, would likely again be a must in the next decade.
“A lot of this wouldn’t be possible without the support of our community, without many of the individuals involved in this,” she saying, thanking the Olympic-loving locals. “To the volunteer effort that’s being put forward again for the tourism here in Utah, to those who are volunteering their time to help with this, this is huge. It’s extremely commendable to have that.”