Laura Seitz, Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the state's Olympic Exploratory Committee announced Friday their recommendations about a future Winter Games bid will be made public as soon as their findings are turned over to Gov. Gary Herbert and Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker.
The committee decided to go ahead with its report to the governor and the mayor in late August despite the U.S. Olympic Committee's decision earlier this month not to submit an American bid for the next Winter Games to be awarded, in 2022.
"Obviously, we'd like to have the Games here sooner rather than later. But the reasoning by the USOC is valid," said Fraser Bullock, the former chief operating officer of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake.
The USOC decided there was a better chance of bringing an Olympics back to the United States by waiting to bid later and has asked a working group to look at whether that should be for the 2024 Summer Games or the 2026 Winter Games.
Bullock told the committee it was important to make sure the USOC knows whether Salt Lake is ready for another bid during that discussion. The state, he said, needs to "tell them we stand ready to do that so they can consider that as they develop their strategy."
The delay actually works in the state's favor, Bullock said, because 2022 would likely be seen as too soon for a city to get the Games back. He said the wait requires "just being patient, which is part of the Olympic world."
Herbert's chief of staff, Derek Miller, said the USOC's choice not to bid for 2022 shouldn't be viewed as a setback or a disappointment. The state, Miller said, recognized the possibility there might not be the opportunity to bid for 2022.
Miller recommended the committee continue to meet even after finalizing its report to the governor and the mayor. Assuming a future bid gets the green light from Utah officials, he said the committee "can focus on relationship-building and advocacy."
Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, who serves as the committee's lead co-chairman, expressed concern that if the USOC bids for the next Summer Games in 2024, that won't bode well for a 2026 Winter Games bid.
'How much effort is it worth?" he asked, suggesting a Winter Games bid would be overshadowed. "Summer is so much bigger and takes so much more, not just capital investment, but so much more commitment from the USOC."
Still, Bell said, the state needs to keep trying.
"We might get a little lost in that," he said. "But we must keep the flame alive."
Bullock said the entire report to the governor and the mayor will be made public once it's in their hands, even the portions now being discussed behind closed doors because of the competitive nature of some of the information.
He said the release wasn't intended to show Salt Lake's strength against other U.S. cities considering a bid, including Denver and the Reno-Tahoe area. "It's not to scare anybody. It's just to get this right."
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