ANCHORAGE — Alaska’s largest city began considering Tuesday whether to mount another bid for the Winter Olympics after narrowly losing efforts to host the 1992 and 1994 games.
A 23-member exploratory committee, which includes four Alaska Olympians, met for the first time to delve into the finances and mechanics of pursuing the 2026 Winter Olympics.
Among the members was cross-country skier Holly Brooks, who texted into the meeting while training on a glacier.
“We still feel, in fact more confidently than ever, that Anchorage has the capability, the facilities and most of all, the spirit and the willingness to be the host city,” Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan said at the meeting.
After losing its first bid for the 1992 games to Albertville, France, Anchorage came in third for the ‘94 games, held in Lillehammer, Norway.
The most recent Winter Olympics held in the U.S. were staged in Salt Lake City in 2002.
To lend credence to a possible bid for the 2026 games, committee member and two-time U.S. Olympic cross country skier James Southam announced that Anchorage will host the U.S. National Cross Country Championships and SuperTour Finals in March.
Southam said it would be “just amazing” to hold the Olympics in his hometown.
“When you host these kinds of national events, it really just increases our resume, our capacity to put in this bid for the 2026 Olympics,” Mayor Sullivan added.
Venues are the biggest challenge for Anchorage or any city seeking to host the Olympics, since the facilities must be built to host more spectators than they would for local events.
“How do you pay for it, and what do you do with it once the games are over?” Sullivan said.
He believes Anchorage has the other logistics covered: It’s already an international city for travelers, has thousands of hotel rooms, and — possibly its most important quality — is well situated for prime-time TV audiences.
Morning competitions could be shown live during prime time in Europe, and late afternoon events would be live during prime time in the eastern and central U.S.
Anchorage’s bid for the previous games did not rely on any public financing. Sullivan said that’s the current goal as well, with the hope that television revenue, merchandising and private contributions from corporations would cover the costs.
Since the prior bids, Anchorage, like a lot of other cities, has seen some challenging economic times.
“But I think we’re back on the right track,” he said. “And you’re talking about games in 2026, so it’s 13 years from now. You’d like to think we’ll be even better positioned than we are today.”
Sullivan wants the committee to complete its work looking at finances, venues, housing and transportation within eight months. The United States Olympic Committee will have the final say on whether it seeks to back an American city for the games. Sullivan said that decision will likely come in 2015.
Los Angeles has expressed interest in bidding the 2024 Summer Olympics, but the USOC said during a meeting earlier this year that it’s weighing a summer vs. winter bid. The committee will decide in late 2014 whether to field a candidate for the 2024 summer games.