Would a 2022 U.S. Winter Olympics bid be a waste of $30 million?

Fans of the bobsled and biathlon should not hold their breath for the United States to host the Winter Olympics.

Officials in California and Nevada formed a committee last week to bring the 2022 Winter Olympics to the Lake Tahoe/Reno area, joining Denver, Colo., and Salt Lake City, Utah, as potential American Olympic host cities. But due to the United States Olympic Committee's ongoing dispute with the International Olympic Committee over TV and sponsorship dollars, all three cities' chances are slim.

Rick Burton, a professor of sports management at Syracuse University's Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, cautioned the American bid committees to spend wisely. Vancouver's successful bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics cost a reported $34 million. Annecy, France, spent roughly $30 million in its failed attempt to win the 2018 winter games, which will be hosted by Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"You can bang your drum from a PR standpoint, but until you know that the USOC has worked out its agreement with the IOC, I'd keep my powder dry," Burton said.

Since 2005, the USOC and IOC have sparred over the current revenue sharing agreement, which gifts 12.75 percent of U.S. broadcast revenue and between 16-20 percent of the IOC's global sponsorship revenues to the USOC. These are serious sums of cash. NBC reportedly paid $456 million for broadcast rights for the 1996 Olympics, $3.5 billion for 2000 through 2008, $2 billion for 2010 and 2012 and 4.4 billion for 2016 through 2022. The revenue helps supply much of the USOC's revenues, which according to its 2010 tax filing, was $250.6 million that year.

The USOC has publicly stated it will not submit any host bids to the IOC until the negotiations end. The two groups last met in January but failed to finalize a new plan. In September, Colorado state senator Michael Bennett wrote a public letter to USOC Chairman Larry Probst urging both sides to agree on a new deal.

"As you are aware, the work and preparation that it takes to produce a winning bid is extensive," Bennett wrote. "It would be unfortunate if the current impasse undermined these efforts."

If the IOC and USOC hammer out an agreement in the coming year, however, the American cities are still long shots for 2022, Olympics experts said. Burton, who was chief marketing officer for the USOC at the Beijing Olympics, believes the USOC would rather bid for the 2024 summer games over the 2022 winter games because the summer games generate substantially more revenue.

According to the SportsBusiness Journal, the 2010 Winter Olympics generated $1.65 billion in total revenue.


The presumption is the U.S. is going to take less money in the new [revenue share] deal in return for the IOC granting them the games," Burton said. "If the U.S. were to win the [2022] winter games, it pretty much eliminates us from the summer games in '24 and '28."

A USOC spokesperson declined to discuss whether the group would bid on a summer games ahead of a winter games.

Andy Wirth, chairman of the California/Nevada bid committee and CEO of Squaw Valley ski resort, said the California/Nevada committee is merely establishing the political and financial groundwork for an Olympic bid, in hopes that the USOC and IOC finalize a new agreement soon. Wirth declined to discuss the committee's budget, but said the group is in the process of hiring a small staff.

"We are very aware that we're in a position to stand by and await notice from the USOC," Wirth said. "We have a rational and pragmatic view of our chances."

Dr. Robert Kaspar, managing director for Salzburg, Austria's failed bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, said time is running low for the three American cities. The IOC will vote on the site of the 2022 winter games at its annual IOC Session in 2015. Cities interested in hosting an Olympics must submit a 50-page preliminary bid to the USOC, which then chooses one city to present to the IOC alongside other international bids. The cities must also host a major international competition, such as the Youth Olympic Games or world championships.

"It's a two-year process," Kaspar said. "So if the decision is in 2015, then the cities must be ready to go by 2013, and basically in 2012 the USOC and IOC need to make [an agreement]."

Kaspar said Salzburg spent roughly $16 million on its bid, which he said is on the lower end of Olympic bid costs.

According to the website GamesBids.com, which reports on Olympic hosting bids, committees in Oslo, Munich, Davos, and Barcelona, as well as national groups in Ukraine and Kazakhstan have also organized bids for 2022.

The website's operator, Robert Livingstone, believes Denver presents the best option of the three American cities, since Salt Lake City last hosted the games in 2002 and Reno-Tahoe may face transportation obstacles due to the dual city format. Denver also hosted the 2009 SportAccord Convention, which is a meeting of international sports and Olympic federations.

But Livingstone said all three cities should approach the games bid with caution.

"They don't know if there is going to be a real opportunity," he said. "There's a lot of risk in spending the money right now."

More from Forbes.com:
The most expensive Summer Olympics
How much will the London Olympics cost? Too much.
How does London’s Olympics bill compare to previous games?