Salt Lake City got the green light to bid for the Winter Olympics — most likely for 2030 — in an attempt to bring the Games back to the city that hosted in 2002 and provided the backdrop for the U.S. winter team’s ascendance into an international powerhouse.
The U.S. Olympic Committee said Friday it was selecting Utah’s capital, which stood out as a predictable, slam-dunk pick in a process that also included Denver and Reno, Nevada.
With venues still in place — some of them upgraded — from the 2002 Games, Salt Lake claims it can host again at a lower cost than other candidates, which aligns with the International Olympic Committee’s new blueprint for the Games.
It’s almost a certain bet the bid will be for 2030, though the USOC left open the possibility of other dates. There are only two bidders for 2026: from Sweden and Italy, after voters in Calgary, Alberta, rejected a proposed bid.
USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland said Denver and Salt Lake City both presented strong cases, but that the board determined Utah was the better choice due in part to the existing venues, their proximity to each other, the city’s experience hosting the games and widespread community and political support. She said it minimizes the risk.
“It is critical to ensure that we have the ability to create an incredible experience for athletes while at the same time managing sustainability and fiscal responsibility,” Hirshland said. “It was clear to us when we were there and in what they presented that Salt Lake City very much understands the practical realities of hosting a Games, but also wants and supports what they represent.”
The city’s selection set off celebration at the mayor’s office where local leaders who worked on the plan gathered. Since 2012, Utah has said it’s ready and willing to host another Olympics.
One key hurdle for Salt Lake City will be erasing memories of the bidding scandal that marred the buildup to 2002 and resulted in several IOC members losing their positions for taking bribes.
Mitt Romney was brought in to steer the games through the scandal. The newly elected U.S. Senator for Utah told The Associated Press after the announcement that a series of processes put in place by the IOC will ensure no bribery scandal happens again.
Romney said Salt Lake City should have a great chance at winning the bid from the IOC because it has shown it can host the games without losing money. Salt Lake City ended up with a surplus after the 2002 Games, money he used to help maintain venues it will use again if it’s awarded the Olympics.
“We learned how to produce the Games for the same cost as the revenue that came in,” Romney said. “We will not put a glitzy show like Sochi or Beijing, that are reported to have cost as much $50 billion. We will show the world that you can produce an Olympics without having the government writing the checks.”
In many parts of the United States, however, the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City are remembered not for the bribery scandal but for a different reason.
After never surpassing 13 medals at a Winter Games, the U.S. used home-turf advantage, an influx of new sports and the emotion of the recent Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks to capture 34 over three weeks in Utah.
In the aftermath, Park City and other mountain towns near Salt Lake City preserved and improved upon many of the venues, and continued hosting key international events. The freestyle world championships will be held in Park City in February.
Utah organizers say they could host the games for $1.35 billion, some $50 billion less than it cost in Russia for the 2014 Sochi Games, which are the most expensive games ever and stood out as a blaring warning signal that the IOC needed to streamline its bloated Olympic structure.
The exorbitant costs have changed the dynamic of Olympic bidding. In 2002, cities were trying to bribe IOC officials to award them the Olympics. These days, the IOC finds itself wanting for bidders.
The IOC normally awards Olympics seven years before they’re scheduled, though that calendar has been in flux because so many cities have dropped out.
Last year, the IOC handed out the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games at the same time because there were only two cities left in what began as a much bigger contest for 2024. Paris will host 2024, Los Angeles will host 2028, and if Salt Lake wins 2030, it would mark the first time since the IOC began staggering the Games two years apart, in 1994, that the same country has hosted back-to-back.
At this time, Salt Lake could be considered a favorite in a 2030 contest that hasn’t really taken shape yet.
Hirshland said the USOC has the luxury of time to refine Salt Lake City’s bid.
In fact, Salt Lake could still be a favorite for 2026 had it been allowed to go that route. Recently, voters in Calgary rejected that city’s attempt to host, leaving Stockholm and a joint bid from Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy as the only two remaining candidates. A bid from Utah was considered, but putting it in front of the Los Angeles Olympics provided too many hurdles on the marketing side.
Rob Cohen, chair of Denver’s Olympic bid committee, called it disappointing that Colorado lost out on the chance to bid but said the process prepared the city as it looks for other chances to showcase the city on the world stage.
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SELVA DI VAL GARDENA, Italy (AP) — Lindsey Vonn is hoping to return from injury next month and resume her pursuit of the all-time World Cup wins record, according to the U.S. Ski Team’s head coach.
“That’s what we’re hopeful for. That’s the plan,” Paul Kristofic told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Vonn hyperextended and sprained a ligament in her knee during a training crash on Nov. 19. She also suffered a bone bruise in the crash, in which she fell on a turn, did the splits and went into the protective fence.
January would be an opportune time for Vonn to return, since there are three consecutive weekends of speed races, downhill and super-G — which are Vonn’s specialties.
The series opens Jan. 12-13 in St. Anton, Austria, followed by stops in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. A win or two in that stretch would move Vonn closer to the mark of 86 victories set by Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark.
Vonn has 82 wins.
However, Vonn has not returned to on-snow training yet.
“She’s just doing rehab and strength and conditioning,” Kristofic said, adding that there is no precise date set for her return to ski training. “It really depends on how things go when she’s not on snow. It’s sort of day by day.”
The 34-year-old Vonn was planning to retire at the end of this season but the injury prompted her to announce recently that she plans to come back for one more series of speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta, next season.
Kristofic said Vonn is also expected to compete in one more final major event — the world championships in Are, Sweden, in February.
“It’s in the plans to do it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Olympic downhill champion Sofia Goggia is also hoping to return from injury in January.
Goggia broke a bone in her right ankle during a fall in giant slalom training in Hintertux, Austria, in October.
“She has a doctor’s appointment on or about Dec. 21 and hopefully she’ll be cleared for on-snow training before the end of this month,” Italy coach Giovanni Feltrin said.
“The idea is for her to return in January,” Feltrin added. “The exact date I don’t know but it would be great if it’s in Cortina.”
Both Goggia and Vonn won downhills in Cortina last season.
Mikaela Shiffrin will also be missing from speed races Tuesday and Wednesday in Val Gardena. The overall World Cup leader is resting after winning her last three races and with a big set of events coming up in her specialties of slalom and giant slalom.
“I won’t be racing as my team and I needed a rest and reboot after the busy last six weeks,” Shiffrin wrote on social media Sunday.
The next downhill on Shiffrin’s schedule is in Cortina on Jan. 19, Kristofic said.
With Breezy Johnson, Jacqueline Wiles, Alice McKennis also out injured, that leaves only Laurenne Ross and Alice Merryweather to represent the U.S. team in Val Gardena.
The Gardena races were originally scheduled for Val d’Isere, France, this weekend but were moved due to a lack of snow in the French resort.
While the U.S. has plenty of starting spots available in Gardena, Kristofic said that the team’s younger athletes “are not ready to race World Cup downhill, especially on a men’s track.”
It’s the first time that the Saslong course will host women’s World Cup races, having been a classic stop on the men’s circuit for a half-century.
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SELVA DI VAL GARDENA, Italy (AP) — The skier-snowboarder who stunned just about everyone by winning the Olympic super-G in February is finding her groove again.
Ester Ledecka led the second training session for a World Cup downhill by a comfortable margin Monday — two days after winning a parallel giant slalom snowboarding event.
“My first turns on skis were this morning — after two weeks — because I was just snowboarding,” Ledecka told The Associated Press.
Actually, it has been nine days since Ledecka competed on skis, finishing 29th in a super-G in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Dec. 8. But considering all that she’s done since then, it’s no wonder that it feels like two weeks.
Ledecka finished second in a snowboard race in Carezza, Italy, on Thursday and then won a night race in nearby Cortina d’Ampezzo on Saturday — meaning she was on skis in Val Gardena about 36 hours after her latest boarding victory.
“It was kind of crazy to come here, because it’s a new hill for everyone,” said Ledecka, who was 14th in the opening training session. “So I was a little insecure in the morning with my ski turns but I’m happy that I was able to feel good on my skis and have some good runs.”
Ledecka finished 0.40 seconds ahead of Selva native Nicol Delago and 0.43 ahead of Nicole Schmidhofer, the Austrian who won this season’s opening two downhills.
“So far so good. But it’s still just a training,” Ledecka said. “All the girls are practicing and looking for the good lines.”
At the Pyeongchang Olympics, Ledecka followed her super-G victory in Alpine skiing by winning the parallel GS in snowboarding — becoming the first athlete to win two golds at the same Winter Games using two different types of equipment.
In the Olympic super-G, Ledecka beat Anna Veith by 0.01 seconds — after U.S. broadcaster NBC had already declared Veith the gold medalist and switched its viewers to figure skating.
While the 23-year-old Czech athlete still lacks experience in skiing, this week’s races in Val Gardena on a slope that the women have not raced on before evens the playing field for her.
“This is an advantage for me,” she acknowledged. “We’ll see how I can play with it.”
Ledecka’s chances are also boosted by the fact that downhill standouts Lindsey Vonn and Sofia Goggia are currently out injured and overall World Cup leader Mikaela Shiffrin is sitting out to rest.
“There’s a long way in front of me in skiing still,” Ledecka said. “I hope I’ll improve myself a little bit this year.”
Ledecka’s Olympic success has made her one of the most popular athletes in the Czech Republic — rivaling even the country’s hockey stars. Barbie recently introduced a Ledecka doll in its “Role Models” series — replete with miniature equipment for both snowboarding and skiing .
“The Barbie doll was a nice surprise and I hope they will make some more, because I (got) a lot of messages from my fans that they want to buy it,” Ledecka said. “On one side (the increased attention) is good, on the other side you kind of a little bit lost the privacy but I learned to work with it and I’m OK.”
Ledecka broke a bone in her left hand during snowboard training at Copper Mountain in Colorado last month and was left with a big scar on the top of her hand from surgery.
“I was snowboarding and I put my hand on the ground and I hit the gate. I had to stop for one week,” Ledecka said. “The good thing for me was that when I came back I was snowboarding, so I didn’t have to hold the pole.”
Ledecka plans to keep switching back and forth between skiing and snowboarding this season but she could run into a dilemma with the parallel GS at the world snowboard championships scheduled for Utah on Feb. 4 — the same day that the Alpine skiing worlds open in Are, Sweden.
Ledecka is the defending world champion in snowboarding.
“Last year we were lucky, with the weather and everything so the whole plan fit,” said Tomas Bank, Ledecka’s coach. “This year I recognize it is not that easy.”
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in St. Moritz, Switzerland, contributed to this report.
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