USOC mulling a bid for Winter Games that might include Colorado, California or Utah

PARK CITY, Utah — Less than two weeks after securing the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the U.S. Olympic Committee is scheming for a Winter Games.

“We are definitely interested in hosting the Winter Games at some point  — 2026 or 2030,” U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Larry Probst said this week at a public meeting.

International Olympic Committee president “Thomas Bach has publicly stated he wants the Winter Games to return to a more ‘traditional’ location,” Probst said. “For me that’s code for Europe or North America. Innsbruck, Calgary, Stockholm. We are going to monitor those sites and develop our strategy. We’ve been bidding for the Summer Games since 2003, so we might have some time.”

While the board members at the meeting — held as part of the USOC Media Summit in Park City, Utah — did not name specific North American locations outside of Calgary, Canada, communities including 2002 Olympic host Utah, Colorado and California’s Lake Tahoe area have for several years been quietly studying a potential bid should the USOC get serious about luring the Winter Games back to the U.S.

U.S. Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun said at Monday’s meeting that a bid for the 2026 Winter Games might be difficult considering Los Angeles would control U.S. Olympic marketing efforts leading up to the 2028 Summer Games.

“This is a decision we will make in close contact with Los Angeles,” Blackmun said.

LA 2028 officials on Tuesday in Park City said they would support USOC’s efforts to land a Winter Olympics in 2026 or 2030.

The USOC will meet next month to further discuss a bid.

Austria, Norway, Switzerland and Calgary have expressed interest in hosting the 2026 Olympics. Salt Lake City, which has Olympic infrastructure in place from 2002, also has shown an interest in hosting the 2026 show, but no country has hosted back-to-back Olympics since Germany before World War II.

And Colorado has a troubled history with the Olympics. In 1970, the IOC awarded Denver the 1976 Winter Olympics. Two years later, as Japan announced it was spending close to $70 million for its 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo, Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected the Games following a heated campaign that suggested the Winter Olympics would stress the state’s finances and environment.

To this day, Denver remains the only location to reject an Olympic bid, a sting that may still linger at the IOC.

But many cities and countries have stepped up against even bidding for the Olympics, especially after Russia spent close to $50 billion to host the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. Four cities — Oslo, Norway, Lviv, Ukraine, Krakow, Poland, and Stockholm — pulled their bids for the 2022 Winter Games, leaving only the Kazakh city of Almaty and Beijing, which won the 2022 show.

Visit Denver’s Denver Sports Commission, which is tasked with luring major sporting events to bolster the economy of the Mile High City, is analyzing potential benefits if the city is ever invited to bid for the Winter Olympics.

“We have a great relationship with the US Olympic Committee and an impressive resume of world-class events that have called Denver home over the years,” Matthew Payne, executive director of the Denver Sports Commission, said in a statement. “Additionally, Denver and Colorado are very well positioned should the opportunity arise, and we would welcome an invitation to discuss in-depth what it would take for Denver to become a Winter Olympic host city.”

USOC has the support of American athletes for a home-country Winter Games.

Kelly Clark, the 34-year-old snowboarding pioneer who won gold in 2002 in Salt Lake and plans to count the 2018 show in South Korea as her fifth Winter Olympics said an American Winter Games can seed the next generation of winter athletes.

“Having the Olympics on home soil really does something to the next generation who watches it. It becomes possible,” Clark said. “When it’s in your home country, it breaks down an invisible barrier and really inspires the next generation like no other Olympics on foreign soil can.”