Could Sacramento host the 2030 Olympic hockey and speed skating finals?
Sacramento could play host to speed skating, ice dancing or even hockey under a proposed bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics being pushed by officials in Lake Tahoe and Reno.
The close of the 2018 winter games in PyeongChang, South Korea, brings fresh attention to the long-running effort to bring the Olympics back to the Tahoe area, which hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley.
While a bid encompassing two cities 130 miles apart might have been problematic in the past, recent changes in how the International Olympic Committee scores bids makes a Reno/Tahoe/Sacramento bid more attractive, said Jon Killoran, who chairs the Reno Tahoe Winter Games Coalition.
He said the IOC is now encouraging areas to take a regional approach, rather than adding costs by building all new venues.
“The IOC view has changed. Now, it may be more advantageous to spread some things out,” said Killoran, whose office is housed in the Reno Chamber of Commerce.
Prior to the start of the PyeongChang games, United States Olympic Committee Chair Larry Probst said there are no plans to submit a U.S. bid for the 2026 games because the USOC believes a 2026 U.S. host would detract financially from the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
A 2030 Reno Tahoe bid is viewed as a long-shot in some respects.
First, the U.S. Olympic Committee must decide it wants to submit a bid since cities don’t bid without the support of the national body.
Then, there is the domestic competition. Salt Lake City and Denver are both expected to pursue the 2030 games. Salt Lake has the advantage, having hosted the Olympics in 2002, and enjoys backing from the governor and Legislature. Part of Salt Lake’s argument is that the city can produce the games more efficiently and at less cost than other cities because it has the infrastructure in place.
The Reno/Tahoe area would have to construct bobsled and luge runs, among other pieces.
Mike Testa, chief executive officer of Visit Sacramento, said the city would be open to discussing Sacramento as part of the Reno/Tahoe bid, but officials here have yet to be brought into the loop.
Staging the games in Reno would boost Sacramento’s hotel properties, even if Sacramento isn’t directly involved, Testa said. Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara had a positive spillover effect on local hotels in 2016, he said.
But the impact would be magnified were Sacramento to host a portion of the games. Testa said the exposure would be “something that the region has never seen. The marketing and (public relations) value would be off the charts.”
In recent years, fewer cities around the world have shown interest in hosting Olympic competitions as skyrocketing costs have been seen as a burden by residents in potential host cities. In 2015, Boston was picked by the USOC as America’s host city for its 2024 bid before public opinion soured and local controversies forced the proposal to be withdrawn.
Only two cities vied for the 2022 winter games after Oslo rescinded its bid, and the IOC ultimately chose Beijing over Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The 2018 winter games included 2,900 athletes from 92 countries competing in 102 events. The IOC has tried to lessen the impact and cost by asking cities to “present a project that fits their sporting, economic, social and environmental long-term planning needs.”
Economist Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College in Northampton, Mass., said the prospect of generating an economic benefit from the Olympic games is dim.
“There is not a lot of positive impact to economic development in hosting the games,” Zimbalist said. He said the positive examples cited by proponents are “few and far between.”
Proponents often cite lasting infrastructure improvements, but Zimbalist said those projects help transport people from venue to venue, not where cities need them most.
He said cities like Los Angeles, which will host the 2028 summer games, do well because they don’t have to build new venues. He said most cities spend $10 billion to $15 billion while taking in around $2.5 billion.
While several Winter Olympics – such as Vancouver in 2010 – have located skiing, snowboarding and sliding events an hour or more away from the host city, having two major cities sharing the games would be unique, Zimbalist said.
“It seems to me to be a bit of a stretch, but it is conceivable,” he said of using Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center. He said drawing in Sacramento would reduce the need for new venues, but adds security and transportation challenges.
International competition for the Winter Olympics in 2026 and 2030 is expected to include Sion, Switzerland; Calgary, Canada; Sapporo, Japan; and Stockholm, Sweden, according to gamesbids.com, which tracks the Olympic bidding.
According to The Associated Press, Salt Lake City officials are aiming for the 2030 games, but are willing to put the city’s bid in for 2026 if the IOC is preparing to announce two cities at once, as it did with Paris and Los Angeles for the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics.
Future Olympic host cities
2020 Summer: Tokyo
2022 Winter: Beijing
2024 Summer: Paris
2026 Winter: Open
2028 Summer: Los Angeles
2030 Winter: Open