Utah leaders to consider bid for ’22 Olympic games
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Utah officials on Wednesday announced the formation of an exploratory committee to consider whether the state should pursue a bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
Gov. Gary Herbert made the announcement on the 10th anniversary of the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, hours before he and a gathering of former Olympians relit the Olympic cauldron on the University of Utah campus.
“We’ve proved to the world we can do it, and do it better than anybody else. The question is: should we do it in 2022? I want to know what your feelings are on 2022?” he asked a crowd of hundreds who cheered loudly in response, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Lt. Gov. Greg Bell and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker will co-chair the 13-member committee, which includes Steve Price, co-chairman of the Utah Sports Commission, and Olympic gold medal speed skater Eric Heiden, now an orthopedic surgeon practicing sports medicine in Park City.
Fraser Bullock, the chief operating officer of the Salt Lake Organizing committee that produced Utah’s 2002 games will serve as an adviser to the committee.
The committee was expected to present a report on its conclusions by May, according to a timetable of deadlines provided by the governor’s office. If the recommendation is to pursue the games, a bid committee would be formed to present a report to the U.S. Olympic Committee in the fall.
“The 2002 Winter Games ware an exciting chapter of Salt Lake City’s history,” Becker said in a release. “We believe an investment of meaningful time and effort is worthwhile to make the right decision – not only for Salt Lake City, but for all of Utah.”
It’s not clear what chance Utah might have to host another Winter Games. At least two other states – Colorado and Nevada – have expressed interest in the 2022 event.
Any locale would need the backing of the Colorado-based USOC, which partners with committees to secure the right to host the Olympics from the International Olympic Committee.
Presently, “the USOC is not considering any bids for Olympic Games or Olympic Winter Games,” Patrick Sandusky, the USOC’s chief communications officer said in an email to The Associated Press.
Run by 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, Utah’s 2002 Games were considered successful, generating $876 million in corporate sponsorships and $100 million in overall profits.
But the bidding process for the Utah games was rocked by scandal, with bid leaders accused of securing the games through $1 million in bribes of cash, gifts, medical care and other favors to International Olympic Committee members.
Federal prosecutors brought criminal charges against bid leaders Tom Welch and Dave Johnson, but both were acquitted of charges by a judge halfway through a federal trial. Two other men pleaded guilty to tax fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy charges, but were sentenced only to probation and fines.
The relighting of the Olympic cauldron was the first in a series of anniversary events. The flame, which took a few minutes to catch on, stayed lit for a handful more minutes but the organized planned to beam a column of light from the cauldron for the next 17 days as the city celebrates.
Romney was scheduled to make a stop in Salt Lake City on Feb. 18 for an Olympics anniversary ice skating show in Salt Lake City. His campaign for the GOP presidential nomination has highlighted his role in the 2002 Winter Games with television ads saying he left his Bain Capital job to “help save the Olympic Games.”
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