Winter Games provided ‘springboard’ for Salt Lake City
Hosting the 2002 Olympic Winter Games provided a “springboard” for Salt Lake City to bring more major sporting events to the state of Utah, according to Jeff Robbins, the President and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission.
The construction of world-class venues, such as the Utah Olympic Oval and the Utah Olympic Park, coupled with infrastructural improvements ahead of the Games, has provided Salt Lake City with the necessary facilities to host such events, while the formation of the Utah Sports Commission has also furthered the legacy of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games by partnering with venues and other organisations throughout Utah to attract major sporting events – including World Cups and world championships – to the state.
“Having the Games here demonstrated to everyone what we’re capable of and that has allowed us to go out there and bring more and more of these types of events to Utah,” explains Robbins. “Having the Games here was definitely a springboard for hosting other major events.”
According to Robbins, Utah has hosted over 550 events since 2002, which have generated approximately $1.5bn for the local economy as well as around $300m in media value thanks to the exposure of Salt Lake City as an event destination.
“It’s very likely that had the Games not taken place here, that income would not have occurred, because we were formed as a legacy of the Games to continue bringing these events to the area,” explains Robbins. “Being able to bring events here and grow our sports industry has been a hugely significant legacy. Having the Games as the catalyst for that, and 12 years on still being able to leverage the facilities and the assets we have here to generate an economic impact, is one of the most important legacies from the Games.”
While the 2002 Winter Games helped establish Salt Lake City as a winter sports destination, they also provided Utah with an opportunity to attract other, non-winter events to the area.
“Having the Games here in 2002 created a platform for us to not only utilise these venues for winter sports, but also to expand our offering to become a year-round sporting destination,” explains Robbins. “So we’ve had soccer, volleyball, BMX, mountain biking, fencing and other Olympic-related events that have also taken place here. All of the venues are being used either for major sporting events, training, grassroots sport or community events.”
As the eyes of the world turn to Sochi for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Robbins fondly recalls the impact the Games had on Salt Lake City in 2002.
“It was amazing to welcome the world here and not only have the great sporting events, but also all the pageantry, the culture and the other great things that come with hosting the Olympic Games,” he says. “It was a special time here and I have very fond memories – the overall experience was truly remarkable and is something that still lives on here in our community.”