Salt Lake City’s bid to host the 2030 or 2034 Winter Olympic Games is tied to the history and future of sustainability in the city. Recently, a study found that though the games have grown less sustainable over time, Salt Lake City’s 2002 games were the most sustainable of the 16 studied. With new International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines requiring all events, beginning in 2030, to minimize and compensate for carbon emissions, Salt Lake City has a head start on the green policies that make them a contender.
The IOC’s carbon guidelines are having a positive effect on interested cities around the globe. “It’s possible to be carbon neutral,” said Mario Molina, president of Protect Our Winters, a climate advocacy group. “The best thing we can do is the best we can do. We know it’s hard for an event of that scale to be absolutely carbon neutral, but it can leverage influence with the host city and country to drive for climate action.”
“Climate change is a challenge of unprecedented proportions, and it requires an unprecedented response,” said Thomas Bach, IOC president. “Looking ahead, we want to do more than reducing and compensating our own impact. We want to ensure that, in sport, we are at the forefront of the global efforts to address climate change and leave a tangible, positive legacy for the planet.”
Several things bode well for the city’s bid. Salt Lake City has kept venues from the successful 2002 games, such as Utah Olympic Park and the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center, in use, which stands out on its bid as a great way to prevent the large carbon footprint of new construction. The 2002 games also triggered new light rail and public transportation in the Beehive State capital. Although 85% of the state of Utah’s power came from coal and natural gas in 2021, Salt Lake City itself has set a goal to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030. This goal is in conjunction with the Community Renewable Energy Program, a 17-city coalition working together for net-zero emissions across Utah.
For Salt Lake City and others worldwide, Olympic bids appear to be setting a path to systemic sustainability.
Rocky Mountain Power, an electricity supplier for the capital city, is eager to tie its plans to the IOC’s sustainability regulations. Rocky Mountain’s parent company, PacifiCorp, already has committed to future solar and wind resources that could lower carbon emissions by up to 75% before the end of this decade.
“Whatever Salt Lake City’s goals and the Olympic goals might be, we are ready to discuss how we might meet them,” said David Eskelsen, Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson.
Salt Lake City is primed to move forward in a sustainable manner for the good of its citizens and the environment. Officials say the Olympic committee is sure to take note of the steps the city has already taken, as well as its sustainability goals, as it decides whether the winter games will return to Utah.“There’s no doubt in my mind that Salt Lake City could and would play host to one of the greenest Olympics ever — and this is one of the aspects that makes us very competitive,” said Erin Mendenhall, Salt Lake City mayor.