Winter Olympics Returning to Lake Tahoe?

Although future U.S. Olympic bids are currently on hold due to a revenue sharing dispute, there’s a movement to bring the Winter Olympics back to Lake Tahoe.

Jon Killoran, CEO of the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition,  envisions an Olympics with events taking place on both sides of the California-Nevada state line.

Why a bi-state bid?  “Lake Tahoe itself is split geographically between the two states, as is the mountain range around it.  So there would be events taking place on boths ides of the state line.  It’s a process both states have a keen interest in,” said Killoran.

Due to the conflict between USOC and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), “At this point, there’s no bid cycle,” Killoran said.  “It’s entirely up to the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), and we respect that process.”

In response to an e-mail inquiry, USOC communications director Mark Jones wrote, “We are not currently contemplating a bid for the Olympic or Olympic Winter Games.”  In a subsequent phone interview, he said, “We continue to make progress” in negotiations with the International Olympic Committee.

“We’ve gone through the process of identifying all potential existing venues, venues that might need some upgrading and venues that might need to be built.”  Saying that it’s premature to apportion specific events to one state or another, Killoran emphasized that they would choose the best possible location to hold a particular event.

While the Reno-Tahoe coalition has identified several possible nordic sport locations in the Lake Tahoe basin, they’re all slightly over 6000 feet, or above the FIS legal limit for cross-country.  Whether a waiver would be granted for altitude remains to be seen.  Royal Gorge is “a fantastic cross-country facility, but it sits at around 7200 feet and that’s probably a lot higher than could be considered in a waiver situation,” Killoran said.

The coalition has found locations away from the lake that meet altitude requirments.  They’re looking to see if these venues will meet the other requirements to hold an Olympic nordic event.

With its past history, would Squaw Valley be an automatic for the alpine events?  Killoran replied, “It depends on what alpine [events].  Squaw Valley, I believe, is capable of hosting with homologation, everything but the men’s downhill.  But again, that doesn’t mean that’s necessarily where it would take place.”  He pointed out that Squaw’s KT-22 trail, the 1960 men’s alpine course, doesn’t meet current standards.

Should USOC and IOC resolve their long-running conflict over revenues, Reno-Tahoe might have competition in the bidding for 2022.  Groups in both Denver and Salt Lake City are studying the feasibility of an Olympic bid.

Should USOC entertain bids for the 2022 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City may have a built-in advantage.  A successful Reno-Tahoe would entail building many facilities from scratch.  Salt Lake City retains relatively new facilities built for the 2002 Games.  Killoran estimated the cost of operating the Games would come between $1.5 billion and $2 billion dollars.