Could Salt Lake City be asked to host 2022 Winter Games?

Published: Wednesday, May 28 2014 5:10 p.m. MDT

Updated: Thursday, May 29 2014 9:15 a.m. MDT

With the race for the 2022 Winter Games growing increasingly unstable, could Salt Lake City be asked to host the Olympics for a second time in 20 years?

Jae Hong, Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — With the race for the 2022 Winter Games growing increasingly unstable, could Salt Lake City be asked to host the Olympics for a second time in 20 years?

After all, Krakow, Poland, just withdrew its bid after residents overwhelmingly voted against hosting the Games. Stockholm withdrew in December and Oslo, Norway, could be next because of political pressure.

It's also not clear whether the Lviv, Ukraine, bid will go forward given the political turmoil in that country. That leaves Beijing — which hosted the 2008 Summer Games but does not have winter facilities nearby — and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

But it's still highly unlikely Olympic officials would turn to Salt Lake City, said Fraser Bullock, former chief operating officer of the city's 2002 Winter Games, because the International Olympic Committee's bidding process is already underway.

"We did not submit a bid. So the IOC would have to be in extreme circumstances to then come back and violate that process," Bullock said Wednesday. "I think the odds are very low, but the U.S. would stand ready to help."

That would "only be under the extreme case where no bid city could realistically host the Games," he said. The last time the IOC had to scramble for a new host was when Denver decided it didn't want to host the 1976 Winter Games after all.

Ed Hula, editor and founder of Around the Rings, an Atlanta-based digital newsletter about the Olympics that's read internationally, also said there's little chance the IOC would need to look to Salt Lake City as an alternative.

"I think it's very wishful thinking to expect something like that to happen," Hula said. "I think the IOC is just sort of stuck with who it's got. I don't see Almaty dropping out. I don't see Beijing dropping out. Oslo could stay in."

The Switzerland-based IOC, which required bids to be submitted by March, isn't scheduled to make a decision on which city should host the 2022 Winter Games until July 2015.

Salt Lake City geared up to bid for 2022, but the U.S. Olympic Committee kept any American city from going after those Games, instead choosing to focus on finding a candidate for the 2024 Summer Games by early next year.

The USOC's only comment Wednesday was that it is "currently evaluating whether or not to bid for the 2024 Games," said Patrick Sandusky, chief communications and public affairs officer.

Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker, who is part of the effort to bring the Olympics back to Utah, hasn't followed the ups and downs of the 2022 bid cities, but believes the city would be ready to step up, said his spokesman, Art Raymond.

"The pieces are in place. We could make it happen," Raymond said. "We are a city that could turn it around on short notice."

The price tag for another Winter Games in Utah would be about $1.8 billion, including as much as $100 million to upgrade the Olympic facilities built for 2002. Bullock said projections show the Games would break even or make a profit.

Additional funds would be needed from Washington to cover the costs of providing security. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he believes there would be the support needed if Salt Lake City found itself hosting the 2022 Winter Games.

The senator, who said he'd like to see Salt Lake in the running for 2022, said the high cost of last February's 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, may be discouraging other cities from the competition.

"I think the Russians spent like mad — $50 billion. Well, what country can afford that?" Hatch said. "We'd love to have them again. Let's face it, Utah put on one of the best Winter Olympics ever. But we didn't spend $50 billion to do it, either."

Contributing: Keith McCord

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsPolitics

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