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Another Olympic bid for Salt Lake City still possible

Published: Wednesday, July 6 2011 5:13 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Could there be another Olympic bid in Salt Lake City's future?

"The only thing that holds me back is it went so well last time, you kind of want to go out on top," joked Fraser Bullock, chief financial officer of the city's 2002 Winter Games.

But just a few weeks ago, Bullock said he was asked "with a wink and a nod" about a possible future bid during a visit to the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"They said, 'Salt Lake was so great, and do you think Salt Lake would ever bid again?' I said, 'Yeah, I think we would because everything went so well,' " Bullock recalled. "I have a lot of people talk to me about that."

Bullock, a managing director of Sorenson Capital who serves on a panel examining how Olympic revenues should be split between the IOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee, said he would back another bid.

While nothing is officially in the works yet, Bullock said the city would have until 2013 or so to decide whether to go for the next opportunity to host a Winter Olympics, in 2022.

The Utah Sports Commission talked in 2003 about the possibility of a future bid for the 2018 Winter Games, which were awarded Wednesday to Pyeongchang, South Korea, over Munich, Germany, and Annecy, France.

Then, commission president Jeff Robbins said the question was not if Salt Lake would bid again for the Winter Games, but when.

But the USOC ended up not bidding for 2018 and Robbins sounds decidedly less positive about the likelihood of another bid anytime soon, especially since it's not clear when the United States will try again for a Winter Games.

"Maybe 2026 is more of a time slot to come back to North America," Robbins said, noting that the IOC may want the Winter Games to go to Europe in 2022 after turning down two European cities for Pyeongchang.

The economy is also a factor, Robbins said.

"You'd certainly have to take a hard look at it and see if it makes sense," he said. "You don't want to dampen your enthusiasm, but you also have to be a little bit of realist."

Gov. Gary Herbert was also careful in his comments about a future bid. "I would be willing to talk about it, but it's not something for which I'm advocating," the governor said in a statement.

While it's not cheap to bid for an Olympics — Chicago spent some $70 million competing for the 2016 Summer Games that went to Rio de Janeiro — Bullock said Salt Lake would only have to spend a fraction of that amount.

"Obviously, our bid would be a lot easier to assemble, utilizing operational plans and venues from previous Games," he said. "Most of our venues would be just fine."

Aside from several new events added since 2002, including women's ski jumping, the competition would look much the same. What would be different, Bullock said, is the look of a second Salt Lake Games.

"You could create a whole different atmosphere potentially in terms of the creative side of the Games," he said, such as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

While the IOC typically attempts to bring the Olympics to new corners of the world, Bullock said there are only a limited number of places like Salt Lake City that boast both "a large city next to a big set of mountains" needed to host a Winter Games.

The bid process has, of course, changed since Salt Lake City offered cash, gifts and scholarships to win the support of the IOC years ago, setting off an international scandal that led to reforms.

Those reforms extend to the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, which brought in now GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to run the Winter Games. Romney named Bullock his No. 2.

Bullock said he would leave the bidding for a future Winter Games to others but would be willing to help put together a second chance to bring the world back to Utah for two weeks of competition.

"I would love to have the Olympics again in Salt Lake, because it unified our community so well and it was a special event for the whole world," he said. "For the next generation to have the opportunity to experience that would be fantastic."

Email: lisa@desnews.com

Twitter: dnewspolitics

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