SALT LAKE CITY — It will be another year before the U.S. Olympic Committee decides whether to back a bid for the 2026 Winter Games, but Salt Lake City will have a chance to pitch its plans in the coming months.
Unlike earlier this year, when Salt Lake's hopes of bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics were ended when the USOC chose not to submit an American candidate to the International Olympics Committee, the possibility of a 2026 bid is still on the table.
USOC officials announced Thursday after a two-day board meeting in California that they'll start meeting early next year with cities interested in bidding for both the 2024 Summer Games and the 2026 Winter Games.
“We have plenty of time here,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun told reporters on a conference call. He said more details about the bid process will be published sometime in the first quarter of 2013.
The choice between bidding for a Summer or a Winter Games won't be made until after the USOC sits down with cities that express interest — and figure out which would be most competitive.
“I would say both of those opportunities are a possibility going forward,” USOC Chairman Larry Probst said. He said there was “a lot of discussion around Summer versus Winter or both for that matter” at the board meeting.
“At the end of the day, we want to put forward a bid that we think we have a high probability of winning so that will continue to be a guiding principle as we go forward and go through the evaluation process,” he said.
Blackmun said the USOC will be trying to keep bidding costs down, noting some cities have spent as much as $10 million competing to be the American choice for past Olympics.
“There's also a recognition this is a subjective process,” he said. “We're going to try to make this a little more informal and little less expensive for our cities.”
Next year, Blackmun said, is being viewed “as informational. if you will. … We don't expect to be making any substantive announcement in 2013.”
Fraser Bullock, who served as the chief operating officer of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City and adviser to Utah's Olympic exploratory committee, welcomed the USOC's plan.
“As far as Salt Lake is concerned, this is good news that the winter alternative is still on the table,” Bullock said. He said Salt Lake is ready to lay out its detailed plans for hosting another Winter Games.
Earlier this month, both Gov. Gary Herbert and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said the city and the state are prepared to host the 2026 Winter Games, giving the formal go-ahead to another bid.
Bullock said the USOC has adopted a “wise” strategy by choosing to talk with cities interested in hosting either the Summer or Winter Games before making a decision about which way to go.
He said he expected that process to take awhile.
“In the Olympic world, there are very, very long lead times,” Bullock said. “That's the way the Olympic world moves.”
Ed Hula, editor of Around the Rings, an online Olympic newsletter published in Atlanta and distributed worldwide, said so far, no American cities have expressed serious interest in hosting a Summer Games.
Salt Lake City faces competition from Denver and the Reno-Tahoe area, although only Salt Lake has committed to bidding for 2026.
That may or may not help Salt Lake City, Hula said.
“Having hosted them before pretty successfully, I guess might hold you in good stead,” he said. “But it depends on what Denver offers, what Reno-Tahoe offers because they can try just as hard, too.”