SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – While the U.S. won’t be sending a diplomatic delegation to the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing, as announced by the White House on Monday, sports leaders from Utah will be headed to China as part of their bid to bring the world stage back to the state.
Leaders of the group working to light the Olympic flame once again in Utah were supposed to be meeting with the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland around this time, but instead, settled for a virtual meeting with the IOC on Monday. A future trip to Switzerland has been rescheduled to the springtime. Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games president Fraser Bullock told the media, it was “a great interaction.”
“That was a great interchange, collaborative dialogue between the two of us that we could understand more about their approach, and they could give us feedback on where we are today,” Fraser Bullock stated. “So that was all very positive. We received some very excellent comments and some excellent insights as we move forward.”
The local committee was joined on the call with the Olympic committee overseas by Governor Spencer Cox and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, who Bullock called “great cheerleaders” in the push to capture an Olympic bid for Salt Lake City in either 2030 or 2034. The next step, according to Bullock and Raney Norman, is to put on a good face in China when the Games begin in February.
They’ll do so unconcerned by President Biden’s decision to hold a diplomat boycott of the Beijing Games in protest of Chinese human rights abuses. While U.S. government officials won’t be in attendance, Bullock, committee chair Catherine Rainey-Norman, and bid lead Darren Hughes will make the sojourn in Asia, serving as ambassadors for their vision of another gigantic event in Salt Lake.
“Our focus is strictly on our Games,” Bullock said, hours between the White House announcement when asked about the potential impact of a U.S. boycott this winter. “We’ve got our heads down, we’re working very hard on that, and we know that things in the world come and go. We recognize that through all of that this is a long journey of either nine or 13 years, we just focus on our games and put our best foot forward in terms of what we can offer the world.”
Salt Lake City isn’t the only part of the world vying for a future Olympic bid. Sapporo, Japan; Barcelona, Spain; Vancouver, Canada; and Ukraine have been reported as suitors for the world stage in the next decade or so.
However, echoing what Raney Norman told ABC4.com in October, Bullock told the press on Monday that making the Games that were so positively received in 2002 even better has been a major focus of his team.
“We see the great legacy that’s happened, we want to take that legacy to the next level.”
In their meeting with Switzerland, the local committee was pitched on the IOC’s focus on sustainability. With some history of Olympic host cities spending astronomical sums of money on venues and infrastructure, only to have both either unprepared or abandoned after the flame has been passed on to the next part of the world, an economical and environmentally-friendly pitch will be key.
Utah could have an edge in answering such a call.
Raney Norman, a former Olympic speedskater, noted that the top-tier events in many sports are still held at Utah locations, including her sport. This she says, is a testament to how well facilities, such as the Olympic Oval in Kearns, have been kept-up since the ’02 Games.
A $76 million endowment leftover from nearly 20 ago doesn’t hurt either.
“We look at going forward to 2030, yes, there are some improvements that have to happen, but it’s very minimal in that regard because we have made this focus throughout the course of these years since hosting to continually improve, and maximize our venues and ensure that they’re at World Class levels, not only for our athletes before the community as well,” Raney Norman stated.
While the committee is looking forward to continuously refining the bidding process, and eventually unveiling the plan to the public, there is no timetable in place for when a potential return of the flame to Utah could be awarded.
“The IOC put everything in the context of a continuous dialogue in terms of selection for a future host city,” Bullock said. “There is no specific timing. It could go way in advance of this historic seven years, it could even go a little bit later… it could happen anytime when the parties come together with a meeting of the minds. But there is no specific timetable or timeline for an award of any upcoming years.”