By WTC Utah President and CEO Derek Miller
The 2018 Winter Olympics are in full swing in PyeongChang, South Korea. Like the rest of the world, I am enthralled by the amazing athletes, the stories of overcoming the odds, the successes and failures, and the spirit that circumscribes the Games.
While watching the Olympics, I’ve heard numerous references to Team USA athletes training in Utah and the amazing facilities we have here. It is impossible to watch the Winter Olympics without being reminded of Utah’s Olympic legacy, the 2002 Winter Games, and the current conversations about the possibility of a Utah bid to host the 2026 or 2030 Games.
Utah’s Olympic Legacy
While contemplating our Olympic legacy and its impact on our economic prosperity, I visited with Jeff Robbins, president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission. We discussed the possibility of bringing the Olympics back to Utah and what that might mean for the state, given, as he noted, the substantial $6.5 billion in economic impact created by hosting the 2002 Winter Games.
Jeff was quick to note that hosting the Winter Games again just makes financial sense for Utah. It would cost the state less this go-round because we are better equipped than we were before the 2002 Games. Unlike many other Olympic host cities, Utah’s Olympic venues are still viable and well-maintained. In fact, more than one million people use our legacy Olympic venues yearly and the state regularly hosts major national and international sporting events at those venues.
In addition to the well-maintained venues, Jeff reminded me that Utah’s transportation infrastructure is in even better shape than it was in 2002, despite the massive construction projects that preceded the Games. We are in even better shape when it comes to moving people about. Salt Lake City International Airport’s billion-dollar renovation project will make the airport one of the most vibrant and sophisticated airports in the country, we have expanded TRAX light rail service, the FrontRunner mass transit systems and street cars and buses that are essential to serve a large influx of visitors.
What’s more, we have the expertise, he said. We have proven we are capable and have tremendous support. Regarding that support, he pointed to recent polls that show Utahns support another Olympic bid by an overwhelming 89 percent.
“Utah is ready, willing and able to host another Winter Games,” said Jeff.
Sixteen years later, Utah is still basking in glow of the 2002 Winter Games and the international notoriety the Olympics brought to the state. Clearly, as Jeff noted, another go-round as a host city would certainly do even more to elevate Utah on the international stage, enhancing our international trade, business recruitment and business development opportunities, travel and tourism – and create a significant number of direct and indirect jobs along the way.
He noted that conservative estimates by the Olympic Exploratory Committee place the economic impact of hosting the Winter Games in 2026 or 2030 on the scale of the 2002 Games, while enhancing Utah’s status as the winter sports capital of the world and strengthening its sport legacy across the state and nation.