Can climate change affect Utah’s chance for Winter Games return?

Jan 10, 2023, 6:32 PM | Updated: 6:34 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Outdoor Retailer Show hosted a roundtable discussion on Tuesday about climate and sustainability and how those issues will impact the potential for hosting the Olympic and Paralympic games again in Utah.

Several former winter Olympians joined Salt Lake City’s mayor, Erin Mendenhall, to discuss the longevity of winter sports in the region, and how to ensure that in the future.

Utah got getting plenty of snow in the mountains this week. However, recent winters with low snowpack and the extended drought raised questions about how many more generations will enjoy winter sports.

“My job depends on the weather,” said Devin Logan, an Olympic freestyle skier. 

Logan focuses on the message of sustainability when she meets with people in the community. She always includes a message to improve the environment when she talks with school kids.

“Shut off the lights. Shut off the water in between brushing your teeth,” Logan tells them. “Little things that kids can pick up, little habits that will grow into the next generation, figure in more climate activation, just because I want to see my sport grow and advance.”

Mendenhall believes Utah will likely host the Olympics again. She and the Winter Olympic athletes want to use that as a launchpad to raise awareness for things our community can do to impact the environment positively.

“We will be 100% net, renewable energy for all of Salt Lake City by 2030, if not before,” Mendenhall expressed. 

All of that matters. If Utah gets the games, it must have positive climate games, according to International Olympic Committee.

The round table conference including Devin Logan, Olympic Medalist, Catherine Raney-Norman, Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, Chris Mazdzer, Olympic Medalist, and Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Salt Lake City Mayor. (KSL-TV)

Catherine Raney-Norman chairs the committee to bring the games back to the Beehive State. 

“We’re not just talking about podium wins or athletes. But we’re really looking at the impact on our communities,” she explained. 

Raney-Norman said there are already a lot of conversations going on focused on sustainable Olympic Games. 

“We are looking to partner with many of our advocacy groups, many of our NGOs, in hopes that we can come together and utilize these games as a catalyst for change around environmental sustainability and climate change issues,” Raney-Norman said. 

Getting the games again could give Utah a head start on sustainability projects as it did with Trax before the games in 2002. 

“That wouldn’t have happened when it happened without the fact that we had the games coming,” Mendenhall said. “I know that the games will help be a catalyst to compel that kind of capital infrastructure build-out that’s necessary, but it will be a lasting shift to the experience of living along the Wasatch Front for decades to come.“

The panelists believe that the drive for the Olympics can help get more people on board with positive initiatives for our climate. There are already collaborations in the works.

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Can climate change affect Utah’s chance for Winter Games return?