By Karen Rosen | Sept. 25, 2017, 4:37 p.m. (ET)
(L-R) USOC Chairman Larry Probst, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun, USOC Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Baird, USOC Chief of Sport Performance Alan Ashley and Chief External Affairs Officer Patrick Sandusky address the media during the Team USA Media Summit ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Sept. 25, 2017 in Park City, Utah.

 

PARK CITY, Utah – Now that the Olympic and Paralympic Games will “Follow the Sun” to Los Angeles in 2028, could the Winter Games eventually follow the snow back to the United States?

With excitement building for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 in February, United States Olympic Committee leaders said they are open to considering a bid for the first Winter Games in this country since Salt Lake City 2002.

“We are definitely interested in hosting the Winter Games in the United States at some point in time,” USOC chairman Larry Probst told reporters on the opening day of the Team USA Media Summit, which coincided with the first snowfall of the year for many reporters in attendance. “We have to talk about whether that’s 2026 or 2030 and what city that might be.”

Scott Blackmun, the USOC chief executive officer, said Salt Lake City, Denver, Reno-Tahoe are among the cities expressing interest in the Winter Games.

The USOC put a Winter Games bid on the back burner while it pursued bids for the 2012, 2016 and 2024/2028 Games.

The IOC opens its year-long “invitational phase” for 2026 at the end of this month.

Blackmun said the USOC board could have conversations about a bid as early as its meeting on Oct. 13. He said the board would then have to devise a domestic process, which he hoped would include a quiet, informational period. “We honestly haven’t evaluated or assessed it,” Blackmun said. “We’re grateful we have multiple cities.”

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Probst said the USOC will monitor the international cities that have expressed interest in 2026 as it develops a strategy. He said that IOC President Thomas Bach has said he would like the Winter Games to return to a “more traditional location,” following Sochi 2014, PyeongChang 2018 and Beijing 2022.

“For me, that’s code for Europe or North America,” Probst said, mentioning Sion, Switzerland, Innsbruck, Austria (host of the Winter Games 1964 and 1976), Stockholm and Calgary (the 1988 host) as cities which may throw their hats in the ring.

Blackmun said it would be more difficult for the United States to bid for 2026 because of its joint marketing venture with Los Angeles 2028, which goes through the end of 2028. He said the USOC would not want to “impact their ability to market and promote the 2028 Games.”

Olympic slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin said a Winter Games in the United States is “a dream we’re all almost afraid to say, but thinking about. It would be amazing because there’s really nothing like competing with the home country crowd behind you, knowing that they’re there, they’re supporting you. You feel the love, feel this extended family and this sense of unity that we don’t get when we’re competing in Europe.”

Olympic champion halfpipe snowboarder Kelly Clark said a lot of younger athletes have told her they were motivated by watching her win in Salt Lake City.

“Having an Olympics on home soil really does something to the next generation that watches it,” Clark said. “It becomes possible… I know you can watch it from afar, but when it’s in your home country, it breaks down an invisible barrier and really inspires the new generation like no Olympics on foreign soil can.”

Security Discussions

With escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea, security for the PyeongChang Olympics is a lively topic at the Media Summit.

Asked if any athletes had expressed concerns to him, Blackmun replied, “Not a single one.”

He said the USOC is in constant communication with the U.S. State Department and with law enforcement in South Korea.

“Should the unthinkable happen and there are conflicts between nations,” he said, that would be an issue for the IOC to address.

“We are preparing as if we’re going to go,” Blackmun said.

Apart from the North Korea issue, he said the reports from PyeongChang “are fairly positive in terms of potential for crime and assault. We feel really good about this one. The things we do have the ability to control are progressing really nicely.”

Alan Ashley, the USOC chief of sport performance, said his team is making sure athletes are prepared to compete. He praised the venues in PyeongChang, which had test events earlier this year.

“The quality of the snow is very good,” Ashley said. “They have cold temperatures and winter-like conditions. We’re very excited about the actual competitions and what can happen there for Team USA.”

Athletes Free To Express Themselves

In light of protests centering around the national anthem at NFL games over the weekend, Blackmun said he believed the players are “protesting because they love their country, not because they don’t.”

He said the USOC’s stance is clear: “We fully support the right of the athletes to express themselves.”

However, he noted that at the Olympic Games there is a prohibition on all forms of demonstration, political or otherwise.

“Red, White And Winter”

The Team USA WinterFest presented by HERSHEY’S will start with the 100 Day Countdown event on Nov. 1 in New York’s Times Square as part of its 13-stop festival. The theme is "Red, White and Winter."

“It’s a much more interactive fan experience,” said Lisa Baird, the USOC chief marketing officer.

She said the WinterFest will go on the road to Seoul for a Military Appreciation Celebration at the garrison that is home to 30,000 American troops.