By Joseph T. O’Connor, Explorebigsky.com Contributor
BOZEMAN – The debate began in 2010, as soon as Montanans heard the rumors that Bozeman hoped to submit a bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
On Facebook, YouTube and in the blogosphere, people bickered over whether the Olympics would help or hurt Montana. Some said the revenue would bolster the state’s economy, while others argued the games would turn the pristine landscape into a veritable circus. It actually wasn’t clear if Bozeman was planning to enter a bid at all.
But for now, the hype and circus will have to wait.
On July 3, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced it was not submitting a U.S. bid for the 2022 games, in favor of focusing on this summer’s games in London and on possible bids for the 2024 and 2026 Olympics.
In a carefully prepared three-minute statement during a media teleconference, Scott Blackmun, U.S. Olympic Committee CEO and Larry Probst, USOC chairman, laid it on the line.
“The board has unanimously agreed that we would not submit a bid for the 2022 winter games,” Probst said.
Blackmun and Probst said the board’s decision, made during a two-hour discussion last Tuesday, stemmed from the committee’s desire to give the U.S. the best chance at winning a bid to host the Olympics, and that putting together a bid for the 2022 games was unrealistic.
“It wasn’t about not bidding for 2022,” Blackmun said. “It was more about what strategy gives us the best chance for submitting a winning bid.”
Probst added that pushing back bids for the games allows the committee to further cultivate its relationship with the International Olympic Committee, the governing body that ultimately decides what international city will host any given Olympics.
Tom Kelly, Vice President of Communications for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, said his group is disappointed in the USOC’s decision to not submit a bid for 2022, but understands its position.
“A bid you put forward that’s not strong can have negative implications that can be significant,” Kelly said. A weak bid, one that underestimates cost or hasn’t considered other logistical impacts, wastes the IOC’s time and can even undercut a country’s bids in the future.
Jon Greenspon, CEO for the Big Sky Committee for the Winter Games, feels the USOC had to forgo bids for the 2022 games because of money issues caused by a long-standing dispute between USOC and IOC over marketing and broadcast revenue sharing that was finally resolved in May after two years of negotiations.
“It generally takes 7 to 14 months to put together a comprehensible bid,” Greenspon said. “There was not enough time for us to put in a true and good bid or enough time for the USOC to look at all the sites and meet with all the authorities necessary.”
Montanans were divided about Bozeman potentially hosting the 2022 winter games. Olympic mogul skier Heather McPhie, a 28-year-old Bozeman native, feels torn. “It could bring so many opportunities for kids to participate in different types of sports,” she said. “And I would love to compete in the Olympics in my own country, but it would kind of change the town. I’m a little protective of Montana.”
Greenspon said some members of his committee felt cheated by USOC’s decision, but that he and other members were also relieved.
The work to make Bozeman home to the Olympics will have to wait, at least for a year. Greenspon says his committee plans to bid on the 2026 winter games.