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Turns out, neither Salt Lake nor any other American city will be bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The U.S. Olympic Committee board decided Tuesday not to submit a candidate to stage those Games, the next one to be decided by the International Olympic Committee.
As disappointing as that may be to Utahns eager to relive the excitement of the 2002 Olympics, former Salt Lake Organizing Committee leader Fraser Bullock said the decision actually may benefit local hopes of doing it again.
"This probably increases Salt Lake City's odds," he said. "It places more distance from 2002. Our biggest liability in making a bid was the proximity of 2002 to 2022."
In addition, Bullock said the IOC's tendency to rotate the Games between continents suggests Europe would be in line for 2022.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will be in Asia (Pyeongchang, South Korea), 2014 in Eurasia (Sochi, Russia) and 2006 were in Europe (Turin, Italy), while North America had two in the short span of eight years (2002 in Salt Lake City, 2010 in Vancouver).
"It makes natural sense to come back to the U.S. in 2026," Bullock added, noting that Oslo, Norway, seems poised to "have a very strong bid" for 2022.
The USOC announcement came hours after the Utah Olympic Exploratory Committee said it expected to know by Labor Day whether Salt Lake City will try once again to enter the byzantine world of Olympic bidding.
Having investigated the possibility since March, the Exploratory Committee took an initial look behind closed doors at a not-yet-released draft report. A finalized document, including a recommendation on whether to bid again, will be forwarded in early August to Gov. Gary Herbert and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.
Bullock encouraged the Exploratory Committee to "move expeditiously to get the report done," so that if its recommendation is yes, "we stand ready when the USOC is ready to bid for the Winter Games."
Becker said the USOC's decision "is, in some respects, a relief because of the time pressure we were under to make a good decision."
"I don't think it changes things very much for us, as a community and a state, in deciding whether we want to pursue a future Games," he added. "I appreciate the fact the USOC made the decision now and didn't wait … until we got way down the road and then decided not to do it."
In a statement after the USOC board made its decision in a teleconference meeting, Chief Executive Scott Blackmun said that staging the Olympics and Paralympics are of "paramount importance" to his organization.
"We want to submit a bid that is viable and adds value to the worldwide Olympic movement," he added. "We believe a 2024 [Summer] or 2026 [Winter] bid will give us the best chance of achieving those ends."
While the USOC will be focused almost exclusively during the next few weeks on preparing its team for the London Summer Olympics (July 27-Aug. 12), Blackmun said a working group of trustees will be appointed to explore the potential for bids in 2024 and/or 2026.
He expects the working group to make its recommendations to the USOC board at its December meeting.
"Candidly, I'd be surprised if we didn't bid," Blackmun said.
Bullock, who worked closely with Blackmun and USOC Chairman Larry Probst in negotiating an end to a revenue dispute with the IOC, said he thought the USOC "is making a very smart move instead of rushing into a bid for the 2022 Winter Games."
The delay, Bullock said, will enable the USOC to develop a "carefully thought-out strategy" and to build deep relations with bid cities, their home states and with the federal government "so that when we go into a bid, it's 110 percent ready and everything is rock solid."
"A city bidding for the Games needs to recognize it's a long-term process of being patient," he added. "It may take longer, but the Olympic Games are something worth waiting for."
Even if another Olympics is not an immediate target, the USOC's decision "will not change the strategy we've had since 2002 of growing sports in Utah," said Jeff Robbins, executive director of the Utah Sports Commission. "We'll continue on the same trajectory of bringing world championships and major sporting events to Utah."
Time frame for 2026 bid
In 2019, the International Olympic Committee will pick a host city for the 2026 Winter Games. The U.S. Olympic Committee will select its candidate sometime in the two years before 2019.