Committee will explore new '22 Olympic bid for Salt Lake City

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 8 2012 10:30 a.m. MST

Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert announces the formation of an exploratory committee to consider a bid for the 2022 or 2026 Olympics at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns on Wednesday, February 8, 2012.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — It's official — Utah is considering another Olympic bid.

"I think that Olympic fire still burns bright within most Utahns," Gov. Gary Herbert said, promising any decision on a bid for a Winter Games in 2022 or beyond would be based on "fiscal prudence and good governance."

His announcement Wednesday of the formation of an exploratory committee came on the 10-year anniversary of the

opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Games, celebrated a few hours later with the relighting of the Olympic Cauldron at the University of Utah.

Sort of.

Close to 1,000 gathered at Rice-Eccles Stadium had their eyes and cameras trained on the cauldron while two torches were held by two young winter sports athletes at the base of the tower. Fireworks went off, music played and three minutes passed with no flame.

Fraser Bullock, former chief operating officer for the Games, promised the cauldron would be lit within the next 24 hours. But, fortunately, spectators only had to wait a few more minutes before a giant flame appeared and the crowd cheered.

According to cauldron designer Jim Doyle, one of the two pyrotechnical devices didn't go off, and the second "went off but didn't ignite." Doyle guessed water that had collected atop the cauldron throughout the rainy day played a role. Increasing the voltage was the trick to eventually igniting the flame, the cauldron flame ignited, triggering applause from the crowd.

"It's getting old," Doyle said.

Ten years, exactly, from when the cauldron was lit without a hitch and burned for the entire 16-day event that invited the world to Utah. Wednesday's ceremony kicked off 10 days of events marking the anniversary of the Games.

Utahns will know in the next three to four months whether Salt Lake City will make a bid for another Olympics. Other cities already eying a bid for 2022 include Denver and the Reno-Tahoe area in the United States, St. Moritz in Switzerland, and the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine.

At the announcement of another bid, Herbert said there's no question Utah is ready for another Olympics. "We've proven the point we're capable of hosting," he said, "probably better than anyone who's done it before."

But the governor said there are questions that need to be answered before committing to another bid.

Those include whether the private sector is willing to step up with the money needed to upgrade the state's Olympic facilities, including the speed skating oval in Kearns where Wednesday's announcement was held.

Also still unclear is whether Utahns want another Olympics. Bullock said getting public input is at "the top of our list."

"This is a Utah event. It's a Salt Lake City event. It's from the citizens, so they should have an overwhelming influence in the direction we take," Bullock said. Public input, he said, could include conducting a survey.

The 14-member exploratory committee gathering that input and making the recommendation will be led by Lt. Gov. Greg Bell along with Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker and Steve Price, the private sector co-chairman of the Utah Sports Commission.

Becker said, "there is no pre-determined recommendation. We need to take a very hard look at every aspect of whether or not it is worthwhile for our community, for our state, for our taxpayers, for the private sector to step forward again."

But one of the athletes on the committee, Eric Heiden, a five-time Olympic gold medalist in speedskating who is now an orthopedic surgeon in Salt Lake City, said he'd already made up his mind.

Describing the boost another Olympics would give young athletes in Utah, Heiden said, "I know I'm a little bit biased, but I vote yes" on another bid.

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