With the snow appropriately flying outside his office window Monday, Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis announced the city's candidacy for becoming the U.S. bidder for the 1998 Winter Olympics.
The announcement comes on the heels of a weekend meeting of the U.S. Olympic Committee in Minneapolis during which the committee voted to open up the U.S. bid to other cities besides the former contender, Anchorage.Should the city win over the USOC, it would be able to compete in 1991 before the International Olympic Committee to host the 1998 Winter Games.
DePaulis called for a quick and unified response to the USOC opening up the bidding process, an anomaly since the USOC traditionally reseats cities such as Anchorage that have failed in previous bids as the U.S. contender for the games.
"This has to be a unified effort because it is for all of Utah," he told reporters, adding the Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee, a coalition of Olympic supporters, must move quickly to secure the bid.
By April, the city must have submitted a bid document outlining "what Salt Lake City has to offer," DePaulis said. The area's numerous winter sports facilities and many hotels are some of the area's assets, he said.
In June, Salt Lake City and other competing cities will present the bid in person to the USOC. A final decision from the committee is expected shortly thereafter.
In an unexpected move this weekend, the USOC voted in Minneapolis to require bidding cities to have funding mechanisms in place by the time the USOC makes its final decision in June. Some officials, however, speculated the USOC executive committee would vote to rescind the measure early next year.
If the requirement is upheld, Mike Zuhl, DePaulis' chief of staff, said the city must explore a number of alternatives to fund, among other Olympic facilities, a luge-bobsled run and speedskating rink.
Taxpayer money could fund the $6 to $20 million luge-bobsled run. Government could bond for the facilities using revenue bonds paid for with proceeds from future use of the facilities, Zuhl said.
Also public-private partnerships could be developed to allow corporate sponsorship of some events, a common practice in past Olympics, Zuhl said.
Utah's capital city has made past Olympic bids in 1985 that generated muted opposition from environmentalists and groups wary of the city footing the game's bills, reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Tom Welch, chairman of Better Utah Inc, noted that the most recent Winter Olympics host, Calgary, finished the games with an $80 million profit. "We think it has a lot to offer from an economic standpoint," he said.
DePaulis downplayed environmental concerns saying, "I think we can host the games without impacting our water shed and our canyons."
Anchorage failed to win over the International Olympic Committee to become the host city for the 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics. Traditionally, the USOC permits cities that have previously failed in a bid to try again. Anchorage unsuccessfully bid for the 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics but has lost favor among USOC members, prompting the committee to break precedent and permit Salt Lake City and others to have a shot at becoming the U.S. bidder, officials said.
Salt Lake City's competition nationally includes former host, Lake Placid, N.Y.; Reno-Lake Tahoe, Nev.; and late-comer to the competition, Klamath Falls, Ore.