Utah leaders to study ’22 Olympic bid

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah officials on Wednesday announced the formation of an exploratory committee to consider whether the state should pursue a bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. Gov. Gary Herbert made the announcement Wednesday – the 10th anniversary of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. “Ten years ago Utah `Lit the Fire Within,’ and today that flame still burns bright,” Herbert said in a news release. The announcement comes hours before Herbert and a gathering of former Olympians will kick off a series of anniversary events with the re-lighting of the Olympic cauldron on the University of Utah campus. Lt. Gov. Greg Bell and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker will co-chair the 13-member committee, which includes Steve Price, co-chairman of the Utah Sports Commission, and Olympic gold medal speed skater Eric Heiden, now an orthopedic surgeon practicing sports medicine in Park City. Fraser Bullock, the chief operating officer of the Salt Lake Organizing committee which produced Utah’s 2002 Games will serve as an adviser to the committee. The committee is expected to present a report on its conclusions by May, according to a timetable of deadlines provided by the governor’s office. If the recommendation is to pursue the games, a bid committee would be formed to present a report to the U.S. Olympic Committee in the fall. “The 2002 Winter Games ware an exciting chapter of Salt Lake City’s history,” Becker said in a news release. “We believe an investment of meaningful time and effort is worthwhile to make the right decision – not only for Salt Lake City, but for all of Utah.” Run by 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, Utah’s 2002 Games were considered successful, generating $876 million in corporate sponsorships and $100 million in overall profits. But the bidding process for the Utah games was rocked by scandal, with bid leaders accused of securing the games through $1 million in bribes of cash, gifts, medical care and other favors to International Olympic Committee members. Federal prosecutors brought criminal charges against bid leaders Tom Welch and Dave Johnson, but both were acquitted of charges by a judge halfway through a federal trial. Two other men pleaded guilty to tax fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy charges, but were sentenced only to probation and fines. Romney is scheduled to make a stop in Salt Lake City on Feb. 18 for an Olympics anniversary ice skating show in Salt Lake City. His campaign for the GOP presidential nomination has highlighted his role in the 2002 Winter Games with television ads saying he left his Bain Capital job to “help save the Olympic Games.”

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