A new analysis released Tuesday shows hosting the 2030 Winter Games would bring $2.2 billion to Utah, $500 million less than construction, visitor spending and federal security funding added to the economy from the state’s first Olympics two decades ago.
“It’s still a significant amount, a boost to our economy,” Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games that’s bidding for another Olympics, said during the University of Utah Kem C. Gardner Institute’s May newsmaker breakfast.
Bullock, the chief operating officer of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, said what would be a total economic impact of $3.9 billion anticipated in the Gardner institute’s analysis could make a big difference in how well the state would withstand an end to the current booming economy.
That’s what happened when a recession hit in the early 2000s, he said.
“While everything looks great today, cycles inevitably happen, and what’s nice about the Olympic Games being brought to a community is we can count on a certain amount of boost to our economic situation,” Bullock told a virtual audience.
“Who knows what will be happening in the lead-up to 2030, but we’ll have this extra layer of economic activity that we’ll be able to rely on even if there’s a downturn in the economy like we experienced in 2000. It was really something that was beneficial to us back then.”
Natalie Gochnour, director of the Gardner institute, had already warned that the overall economic impact of another Olympics would be less than the more than $6 billion calculated in a 2018 study because the venues and other needed infrastructure has been built.
Gochnour pointed out Tuesday that the capital investment in the 2002 Games, largely constructing competition venues, added up to more than $450 million in 2021 dollars compared to less than $25 million expected to be needed for the next Olympics.
Bullock said while that’s “negative to the economic impact side, it’s a very big boost to our bid because all of the infrastructure is in place. The only capital (projects) that we need to do are just some ongoing maintenance and upgrades at our existing venues,” such as shading for the bobsled, luge and skeleton track near Park City.
What he called “a very modest amount of capital” in the $2.2 billion budget for 2030 includes nearly $15.6 million to ready the track and other facilities at the Utah Olympic Park for competition, as well as $6.35 million at the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center in Midway and $1.2 million for the Utah Olympic Oval speedskating track in Kearns.
Still, Bullock stressed hosting again would be a temporary boost to the state’s economy, adding between 7,000 and 8,000 full-time jobs for more than a year to “do something really special for the world.” He downplayed any long-term growth issues, saying that unlike 20 years ago, Utah is on the world map.
The total $3.9 billion economic impact would stretch from 2024 to 2031 and generate $1.5 billion in personal income, according to the analysis, which also showed the state would bring in $99 million in related revenues, offset by $78 million in expenses for a net of $22 million, and local government would net just over $42 million.
The proposed 2030 Winter Games budget does not include any state or local tax dollars, Bullock has said, although the federal government is expected to pick up much of the cost of providing security, just as it does for other major events like the Super Bowl.
2030 or 2034?
Salt Lake City is competing for 2030 against three other cities that also have previously hosted an Olympics — Sapporo, Japan, the 1972 Winter Games; Vancouver, Canada, the 2010 Winter Games; and Barcelona, Spain, the 1992 Summer Games. Barcelona is bidding with the Pyrenees mountain region.
With Salt Lake City and Sapporo seen as the front-runners even though the Japanese city is dealing with concerns about costs, both could end up being chosen as future hosts by the International Olympic Committee because a new, less formal bid process would allow the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games to be awarded at the same time.
Bullock said he hopes the IOC will narrow the field before the end of the year, with a final decision coming in 2023. Under the new bid process, the IOC enters into discussions with any interested city before selecting the best candidates for what’s called “targeted dialog” aimed at finalizing an agreement to host.
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee selected Salt Lake City over Denver more than three years ago as the country’s choice for an unspecified Winter Games since Los Angeles already has the 2028 Summer Games. So Utah’s bidders have focused on either 2030 or 2034, although Bullock said the sooner the better.
But he said the USOPC is still working out how the country could host back-to-back Olympics without sacrificing domestic sponsorship revenues. That could include sharing personnel or offering other assistance to Los Angeles to cut costs, Bullock said.
For now, all of the contracts being negotiated by the bid committee — including for 17,000 hotel rooms so far as well with ski resorts and other venues, like the U., where athletes will be housed and the opening and closing ceremonies held at Rice-Eccles Stadium — could be used for either 2030 or 2034, he said.
“Yes, we aspire to 2030 but we recognize that everything has to line up for that to happen,” Bullock acknowledged. “And if that doesn’t happen, we certainly would aggressively pursue 2034.”
What could come from another Olympics?
Another Olympics in Utah would not be the same as 2002, both he and Gochnour said. The Winter Games are some 40% larger than they were two decades ago, and Utah has changed, too. Bullock said the venues have not only continued to be used by both community and elite athletes, many, like Rice-Eccles Stadium, have expanded.
Gochnour, who was working for then-Gov. Mike Leavitt in 2002, said she realized “when you have something this big, when the spotlight is this bright, that everything has to get better.” The result is “we take care of things better. We invest better. We think harder about what we’re doing because of the intensity and the seriousness of the endeavor.”
The most important legacy from hosting the Olympics, she said, “is what it did for ourselves, for our confidence, for our ability to do things better in Utah.” Now, the state “knows it can do these things in a very competent way and as we do that, we’re able to expand that to other parts of what we do,” Gochnour said,
For Bullock, the 2002 Games was a time when tens of thousands of people gathered downtown every evening to soak up the atmosphere, when “it felt like unity in our community like never before.” That’s what he wants to see repeated at the next Olympics and, hopefully, beyond.
“I look forward to that time again, where it doesn’t matter what political party, it doesn’t matter what economic strata, everybody can come to a live site and just be together. And feel that unity and celebrate the world coming together,” Bullock said, adding he’d like to see the Games serve as a catalyst to hold on to that “unique feeling.”