SALT LAKE CITY — A whopping 89 percent of Utahns support bidding for another Salt Lake Olympics, according to a new poll released Tuesday that was commissioned for the state’s Olympic Exploratory Committee.
"It sends a message we are ready, willing and able," said Jeff Robbins, Utah Sports Commission president and CEO, a leader of the committee considering a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics.
Robbins said he believes there would likely be even more backing for a new bid if a poll were to be conducted during the 2018 Winter Games that begin Feb. 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
But he said the committee wanted to "get a feel right now. Also we’re curious."
A total of 600 Utahns were polled statewide by Dan Jones & Associates Nov. 14-21 about whether they wanted to try for another Olympics after hosting the 2002 Winter Games. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
The poll results were released after members of the committee heard an upbeat report on Utah’s chances of winning another Winter Games at their first meeting Monday.
"It’s still early, but we have momentum and we’re on a good track," Fraser Bullock, the chief operating officer of the 2002 Winter Games, told the committee made up of government officials, business leaders and athletes.
Bullock said there are a number of cities interested in hosting a Winter Games, including both Denver and the Reno-Tahoe area in the United States, but all face issues Salt Lake City doesn’t have, such as having to build costly competition venues.
He said Salt Lake City needs to focus on a bid for the 2030 Winter Games, because Los Angeles was recently selected to host the 2028 Summer Games and would have to share domestic sponsorship dollars if there was an American 2026 host.
But the International Olympic Committee broke precedent by awarding two Summer Games at the same time, something they might do again for the 2026 and 2030 Winter Games.
Bullock said Salt Lake City needs to be ready to step up if no serious contender emerges for 2026, as long as the financial issues can be worked out with Los Angeles, the United States Olympic Committee and the IOC.
For 2026, Bullock said the Swiss city of Sion "would be the obvious choice. It’s a great area. But they have many political challenges and it’s questionable whether they move forward."
He said Sion, a finalist for the 2002 Winter Games, still hasn’t lined up enough votes to secure $1 billion needed from the Swiss government, although a referendum on the bid is planned for next June.
Also in the mix is Calgary, Canada, where the City Council just approved spending an additional $1 million on a bid despite concerns information had been withheld that was critical of the potential economic impact.
Sapporo, Japan, which like Calgary has previously hosted a Winter Games, just announced interest in going after another Olympics, even though it would be the fourth in a row in Asia. Stockholm, Sweden, is also considering a bid.
"There may be a couple of candidates. There may be no candidates," Bullock said.
The committee is expected to make a recommendation to Utah leaders early next year. It is up to the USOC to decide whether to advance an American candidate to the IOC.