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Davis Journal

What could the return of the Winter Olympics look like for Davis County?

Jan 18, 2024 09:22AM ● By Braden Nelsen
The Olympic and Paralympic Cauldron from the 2002 Winter Olympics. Courtesy photo

The Olympic and Paralympic Cauldron from the 2002 Winter Olympics. Courtesy photo

DAVIS COUNTY—2002 was a banner year for Utah. Though Salt Lake City was the official location for the Winter Olympics, events ranged all over the region, from Weber County down to Utah County, and many places in between. The games were so successful, they revitalized the Winter Olympics for years to come, and many in Utah feel it’s once again time for them to return.

With the announcement from the International Olympic Committee that Salt Lake City is the “preferred host” for the 2034 Winter Olympic Games, it’s looking more and more like the international event may well return to the beehive state, and officials are confident in their ability to host. Thanks, in large part, to efforts made since 2002 to preserve and keep up existing facilities, Utah is already in a good position to act as host to the world once more.

Regardless of the existing facilities, there would need to be new facilities built, and temporary facilities utilized, and though Davis County acted more as a corridor, with no significant events or venues falling within the county boundaries, that doesn’t mean that a future Olympic Games couldn’t or wouldn’t utilize this amazing area.

At this point, of course, nothing is set in stone, but, there are a number of existing facilities and spaces that could easily serve the 2034 Winter Olympic Games. To date, the Olympic Committee hasn’t discussed using any of the following venues, but, they do fall into the category of possibilities within Davis County.

Places like the Legacy Event Center/Western Sports Park, The Davis Conference Center, and the South Davis Recreation Center all have great potential for being venues for smaller Olympic events. Though some work would need to be done to make each of these ready, that’s nothing outside the scope of any Olympic Games and would bring fantastic opportunities to the area.

Another, more likely benefit of the 2034 Winter Olympic Games in Utah would be the great bump to the local economy. According to data collected by the Olympics themselves, the 2002 Winter Olympics created a $5 billion net economic output, a sum which, adjusted for inflation, would round out to nearly $9 billion. 

Utah has grown substantially in the past 21 years. Since the last time the Olympics were here, Davis County’s population has risen from 249,676 in 2002 to 369,948 as of last year. With that population growth has also come new opportunities, new businesses, and many more people that could benefit from the hosting of the Winter Olympics.

If the last games were any indication, there would also be significant improvements to infrastructure. One such example was the installation of the TRAX light rail system by the Utah Transit Authority. The project had been in the works for years, but, being a host for the world expedited the process and the funding, and it has quickly become a system that many in Salt Lake rely on. 

It would not be outside the realm of possibility to imagine that more improvements like TRAX would be in order should Salt Lake be awarded the 2034 games. With how interconnected the communities in Davis County already are, public transit along those lines would be a natural next step. 

While it is fun to speculate, that’s all there is to it currently. However, Salt Lake City is a favored bid, and many in the selecting process no doubt either remember or know how much of a boon the 2002 games were to the organization as a whole. Should the games return, it would be a fantastic opportunity for all involved