Here’s how much a 2034 Winter Games in Utah would cost

The Olympic rings from the 2002 Winter Games are pictured at Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022.
The Olympic rings from the 2002 Winter Games are pictured at Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The price tag for hosting the 2034 Winter Games in Utah is $2.83 billion, bid leaders announced Monday.

That’s higher than previously cited costs for bringing another Olympics to the state, but those estimates were for a 2030 Winter Games. Salt Lake City, the International Olympic Committee’s preferred host for 2034, had also bid for the earlier date, but wanted to wait to avoid competing for sponsors with the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

“These are 2034 dollars, so they’re inflated higher just from inflation,” Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games told the Deseret News. He said adjusting for expected price increases over the additional four years increases the bottom line by about 10%.

The new $2.83 billion budget is “roughly equivalent” to what organizers spent to hold the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City adjusted for inflation, Bullock said, even though there are 40% more events planned for 2034. Since 2002 venues are being used again, he said the financial impact of the expanded competition schedule is “a wash.”

Past budget estimates for hosting a 2030 Winter Games have increased from $1.35 billion in 2018, hitting $2.2 billion two years ago. Last November, that number had risen again, to $2.45 billion, according to a feasibility assessment from the IOC that noted “work is well advanced on a 2034 Games budget.”

What’s not in the Games budget

No state or local tax dollars are included in the budget, which Bullock stressed is “100%” privately funded. While federal funding is anticipated, he said that’s not in the “core budget.” The federal government is expected to help cover security costs, as it does for other major national events such as the Super Bowl, as well as possibly pay for some Games-time transportation.

The budget does include a $210 million contingency fund set aside to cover unforeseen expenses, but not a $260 million legacy fund that would be used to keep the state’s Olympic facilities up and running into the future, or the $905 million expected to go to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee through a joint marketing agreement that’s already been negotiated, he said.

Neither the legacy fund — “a nice to have” if there’s money left over after the Games — nor the USOPC’s share of the revenues earned from 2029 to 2036, and sponsor sales and servicing, is considered part of the price of putting on the Games, Bullock said. Including those in the budget would bring the total to nearly $4 billion.

“Now, that’s not a number we shy away from, but it’s not our core operational number. It’s similar to what we had in ‘02 There was a separate joint venture agreement that we never reported on,” said Bullock, who served as the chief operating officer of Utah’s first Olympics. Then, the budget ended up at about $1.5 billion with around a $100 million surplus.

The bid file submitted to the IOC earlier this year and released Monday actually refers to $3.99 billion as the total for expenditures in what’s labeled a “lifetime budget.” Bullock said that budget follows “the IOC format, which combines the Games Operation budget with the joint venture with the USOPC, and legacy.”

The “lifetime budget” also shows a nearly $216 million surplus, and spells out that “0%” of revenues would come from local, regional or national governments — or lotteries. The 78-page bid file filled with technical details is part of the IOC’s new, less formal selection process that is intended to be more open and less expensive.

The bid file also makes it clear that “the state of Utah is the ultimate financial guarantor” for another Olympics, as it was in 2002. “The state is strong economically and possesses the highest bond rating achievable by a state,” the document states, adding that organizers would be “committed to vigorously managing the budget to avoid the need for the State of Utah to cover any shortfall.”

Whether another Olympics could be insured remains unclear, according to the bid file, which says the status of cancellation policies for events is “uncertain” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The worldwide outbreak of the virus forced the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo to be delayed a year.

Utah’s Winter Games budget does include more than $50 million to pay for a policy “in the event the insurance market reactivates,” money that would be added to the contingency fund if that doesn’t happen. In 2002, organizers paid about $2.5 million for a cancellation policy that would have provided $150 million.

Where the money comes from to pay for the Olympics

Unlike other countries, the United States relies on private funding to stage an Olympics, largely from the sale of broadcast rights, sponsorships and tickets. Utah taxpayers did fund the construction of some venues used in 2002, but their investment was repaid and an endowment established from the Games surplus.

Over the past few years, the Utah Legislature has appropriated nearly $92 million for improvements at the sports facilities that are used by community as well as elite athletes, mainly the Utah Olympic Park near Park City, the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns and the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center near Midway. The funding was not sought by the bid committee.

Revenues add up to nearly $4 billion with the inclusion domestic sponsorships shared with the USOPC totaling $1.8 billion, up from what would be $1.7 billion in 2034 dollars that was raised for the 2002 Games. Licensing and merchandising, a category that includes T-shirts and plush mascot toys that’s also split with U.S. Olympic officials, accounts for another $200 million.

A separate list of “core budget” revenues released later reduces those numbers to just over $1 billion from both the domestic sponsorships and the licensing and merchandising categories and adds the $260 million for post-Games legacy efforts as an expense, bringing the total amount expected to be raised for Games operations to $2.83 billion.

The IOC would contribute $231 million from international top-level sponsorships, plus another $520 million from selling broadcast rights around the world. Ticket sales and hospitality would bring in $1.19 billion, even with the promise that 34,000 tickets would be priced at just $34.

Just over $307 million is budgeted to be raised from donations and other revenue sources.

“We think we can hit these numbers, but to be conservative, we’ve got an offset in case we fall short of any of our revenue targets. That is an entirely new concept that I created,” Bullock said, a $250 million revenue contingency built into the budget. “It really works well.”

What’s next for Utah’s Olympic bid

Monday’s budget breakdown comes as the IOC Executive Board is set to decide whether to advance Utah’s bid to a vote of the full IOC next month. The IOC leaders who serve on the executive board are meeting Wednesday through Friday and will hear a report from the delegation that traveled to the state in April to inspect Olympic venues.

If the bid gets the go ahead, a final vote to ratify Utah as the host of the 2034 Winter Games would be held on July 24, celebrated as Pioneer Day in the state, at the IOC’s annual session, scheduled in Paris just before the start of the 2024 Summer Games. A vote is also expected on the preferred host for the 2030 Winter Games, France’s French Alps bid.

The budget calls for a “very lean staff” during the first four years of what would be a decade to get ready for the Games. During the April visit, a top IOC executive advised that the would-be organizers should aim at being “bold and ambitious” but not be in a hurry to put together detailed plans, especially given the potential for new developments in artificial intelligence.

Brett Hopkins, both the chief operating and financial officer for the bid who served as CFO for the 2002 Games, said the budget is “a simple summary” of what will eventually encompass 40 departments with some 1,700 full-time employees, plus part-time staff and volunteers. But for the first four years, he said the number of full-time employees would be limited to about 10 people. The privately funded bid committee has just one full-time employee, bid lead Darren Hughes.

There’s a “significant technology” expenditure in the budget, nearly $407 million, that’s “due to (the) complexity and increased global reach of the Games.” And although all the 2034 venues are in operation today, it will take nearly $309 million to ready them for the Olympics and Paralympics for athletes with disabilities that follow.

Other expenses include $84 million for communications, marketing and the decorations known as the “Look of the Games;” $132 million for the opening and closing ceremonies along with culture; nearly $500 million for personnel; and $170 million for corporate administration and sustainability, a pillar of the IOC. The biggest expense is a category called sport, Games services and operations, more than $792 million, and includes everything from transportation and security to the athlete housing at the University of Utah.

Bullock told reporters Monday the newly released budget is “probably on iteration over 100″ for another Olympics in Utah with plenty more to come. He noted he and Hopkins teamed up in 2002 to deliver a “more than balanced budget” that had more than 2,500 adjustments. The 2034 budget includes “an incredible amount of detail,” such as the number and price for every event ticket, to support the numbers.

“These are not just estimates based on ‘02. They’ve been built with an extreme amount of detail from the ground up. Seeing how that compares to the actual revenues and expenses from 2002 gives the bid “a lot of confidence in what we’ve done. But we also recognize budgets evolve over time,” Bullock said adding the budget “will be an ongoing document all the way through the end of the Games. But we feel like where we are today gives us a very very, solid projection.”