Park City-area Olympic input: Games ‘will only benefit those in a certain wealth bracket’ or ‘Let’s do it’

Article by Jay Hamburger for the Park Record (February 3, 2023)

Some in the greater Park City area see a second Winter Olympics in the state as an event that could bring transportation improvements and upgrades to the mountain resorts.

But the opinions collected during a series of gatherings in 2022 centered on the Games efforts illustrate there are also worries about the long-term impact another Olympics could have on Park City.

Mountain Mediation Center, which City Hall and the County Courthouse last year tapped to conduct what were dubbed community conversations, compiled the written comments and submitted them to the government leaders as part of a wider report centered on the work in 2022.

The written comments offer an intriguing look into the thinking of the people from Park City and surrounding Summit County as they dwelled on the prospects of a second Games. The comments provide more evidence of the splintering of the Park City area as the populace considers a Games, with supporters seeing benefits and critics worried an Olympics would erode the community.

It appears there is the possibility of hosting a Games in 2030 or 2034. It is not clear when the International Olympic Committee will select the locations for those two years, but Salt Lake City is seen as a top contender for one of them. The Park City area would play a major role in a second Games, as was the case during the 2002 Winter Olympics, and leaders in Park City and Summit County have started to engage the community in discussions.

The written comments cover a range of issues, likely foreshadowing a broad community discussion as Park City and Summit County leaders, as well as the Olympic bidders, press ahead. The comments also seem to signal the talks about the Olympics in the Park City area will encompass issues like growth that are not necessarily within the scope of the organization of a Games.

The Mountain Mediation Center released the comments without names attached but with ZIP codes identified. The comments were made in response to a question asking about what someone wanted to most communicate to City Hall and the County Courthouse about a future Olympics.

Some of the comments included:

• “Use the pressure of hosting the Olympics (looking good internationally) on state and national elected leaders to push projects that will benefit locals long after the games. Examples such as improvements to infrastructure, transportation, housing and changing antiquated state laws regarding women/minority representation,” written by someone in the 84036 ZIP code.

• “I do not believe the modern weather will be able to continue to support our current winter sport industry let alone an Olympic event,” written by someone in the 84096 ZIP code.

• “Please don’t let the lower income, housing insecure populations suffer. In fact, it would be great to see everyone have a chance to experience the Olympics in some way. All those that help us deal with the impacts of a quick and large influx of guests,” written by someone in the 84060 ZIP code.

• “Having the Olympics here will only benefit those in a certain wealth bracket. All of our local issues will be magnified (housing issues, transportation struggles, finding enough workers, water shortages). The impact that the 2002 Olympics had on our growth in turn greatly affected our environment negatively. Not sure we could handle the aftermath of a 2nd one . . . ,” written by someone in the 84098 ZIP code.

• “Let’s do it. It was a marvelous experience in 2002. We can figure out how,” written by someone in the 84098 ZIP code.

• “Regardless of all the financial benefits, burdens, issues and challenges associated with hosting the Olympic Games, they provide a unique, once in a lifetime experience for the youth and the population as a whole of our community for the ones who are willing to participate and keep an open mind about this opportunity. There are only a few communities which are given the chance to experience this event,” written by someone in the 84060 ZIP code.

• “Today’s problems are tomorrows Olympic problems,” written by someone in the 84060 ZIP code.

• “That it’s not fair or right to have all the same people involved in the first Utah Olympics who grew their own personal wealth and brands off the Games be the ones championing a current bid and essentially forcing even bigger versions of the same unintended consequences down our throats because it seems like the fun and Park City thing to do. The idea of a green Olympics is a fallacy. So too is the notion that businesses need the boost in 2022. If these same ski and Olympics cheerleaders can’t ideate or advocate for policy that would result in a future games leaving Summit County better off than it is right now, then we really don’t need a future games. Or at least we don’t need a raucous party or Olympic village or more artificial increases to housing prices in Park City,” written by someone in the 84060 ZIP code.

• “It’s an opportunity to unify, at a time where there’s so much division,” written by someone in the 84098 ZIP code.

• “Our most vulnerable citizens can never experience the joy of the Olympic events. In addition, they will be evicted from their homes during the Olympics,” written by someone in the 84098 ZIP code.

• “(Don’t) forget about locals, especially our underserved communities. Low income families should not be put at risk — either with shelter, food, or any other resource. It is imperative to prioritize our community,” written by someone in the 84060 ZIP code.

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