Salt Lake City was just waiting for the International Olympic Committee to catch up to it.
The 2002 Winter Olympics were famous first for corruption and then for a rebound, led by Mitt Romney, into a profit-turning event. Utah showed future host cities how to maintain the momentum from the games to leverage infrastructure to host world-class events in the nearly two decades afterward.
That kind of economic success and continued post-games use of facilities is a priority for today's IOC under president Thomas Bach. Introduced in February 2018, the IOC's "New Norm" is a set of 118 recommendations to help cities and regions better bid for and host the games.
Many of the tactics seek to improve efficiency in areas of organizing committee staffing, transportation, venue size and multiuse abilities, information delivery and reuse of existing infrastructure.
It is that last area that tops the list of reasons the United States Olympic Committee, in December 2018, gave Salt Lake City the nod over Denver to be the country's future Winter Games candidate. The target is the 2030 Games, a bold hope given that Los Angeles will host the 2028 Summer Olympics. The IOC will choose the 2030 host city in 2023.
Update: A new organizing committee was launched to explore the possibility of Salt Lake hosting the 2034 Games. This came after Sapporo, Japan, announced it, too, will vie for the 2030 Games.
Fraser Bullock, who was the chief games officer in 2002 and has remained in the Olympic movement since, says Utah is a role model for future games prospects.
"One of the key elements is to utilize existing venues, and in many cases that means returning to host cities that have the infrastructure in place, or to put together a regional games that utilize existing venues, because venues are the largest single expense for hosting the games," says Bullock. "We play very well into the IOC strategy."
No new venues need to be built, said Bullock, as the ones utilized in 2002 have all been repeatedly used and maintained as training and event facilities. The State of Sport has hosted more than 50 World Cup or world championship competitions since the 2002 Games, according to the Utah Sports Commission.
Also in Utah's favor: Many of the figures that led the 2002 games, like Bullock, are still heavily involved with the present push for another games; the Salt Lake City airport is in the first phase of a $3.2 billion upgrade and plans are in the works to meet match the IOC's new emphasis on sustainability.
Sustainability is one of the three pillars of the IOC's long-term plan, entitled Olympic Agenda 2020. The other two are youth and credibility.
This sustainability is less about using the games venues after the games and more about environmentally friendly practices and policies. According to the IOC Sustainability Strategy, published in 2016 and updated in 2017, the IOC and its stakeholders and host candidates will strive to improve in the areas of infrastructure and natural sites, sourcing and resource management, mobility, workforce and climate.
Visit Salt Lake Vice President of Sales Mark White says the impact the Games had is immeasurable, both in terms of exposure and a record amount of meetings brought to the area,
"It made people aware Salt Lake is a viable city with a real-life airport and infrastructure that could accommodate events, whether they be conventions or athletic events," he says. "It did that, but it also impressed upon on our community leaders how important these events can be, whether it’s the Olympics or a convention or a smaller amateur athletic event."
Photo Credit: Steve Greenwood