Talks heat up for 2018 Reno/Tahoe Olympics |

Talks heat up for 2018 Reno/Tahoe Olympics

AP PhotoJulia Mancuso, of Squaw Valley, brought home gold from the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics.

Two centuries ago, masses of Americans came West to Nevada and California in search of precious metals, silver and gold.

In the last century, masses descended on the same area in search of precious medals, gold, silver and bronze at Squaw Valley in 1960.

Organizers, politicians and athletes in the region hope the world comes again to the area in 2018 if a bid is successful for a Reno/Tahoe Winter Olympics.

One of those organizers is Nevada Lt. Governor Brian Krolicki.

He said the 2018 bid push is still in the early stages, and a variety of regional representatives are preparing a preliminary bid to submit to the International Olympic Committee in March 2009.

The bid suffered a setback, Krolicki said, when former Reno/Tahoe 2018 CEO Jim Vanden Huevel died in March.

“Jim was one of those extraordinary people who had built up a very strategic Rolodex in terms of networking for the bid, and when he died, yeah, we missed a step or two,” Krolicki said. “It was our goal to keep this effort alive, though, and we kicked into another gear going over Jim’s notes and records to re-establish these contacts and his friends and colleagues are continuing to work smartly to make up for his absence.”

Jon Killoran is the new CEO for the 2018 bid, and said he worked while on a trip to Beijing for the most recent Olympics to network and re-establish contacts that were lost with Vanden Huevel.

“A large amount of networking went on while I was in Beijing,” Killoran said. “There is no way we’ve been able to salvage everything Jim was able to collect over the years … but the trip to Beijing helped to rekindle it a bit and went a long way toward making those connections again.”

Killoran said he also gained a great knowledge and appreciation for the way an Olympics is run.

“Until you really look behind the scenes you don’t get a sense of what it takes to put on an Olympics, the procedures and details required,” Killoran said. “You see everything, from the events to the way Olympics transform a city and leave a sustainable, green legacy.”

Killoran said sustainability is very important to a Reno/Tahoe bid, including everything from green transportation possibilities to using the inevitable Olympic investment to improve the clarity of Lake Tahoe.

James Simon, a Truckee lawyer who is also on the board of the Reno/Tahoe bid, said the board is looking very carefully at the environmental impacts and creating a healthy transportation plan for the Lake Tahoe Basin. That includes shipping in attendees for the games from the Bay Area ” a major ticket-buying base.

“From everything I’ve learned Reno/Tahoe has more than sufficient potential for rail service to and from the Bay Area,” Simon said.

A large, local ticket buying base is required by the International Olympic Committee for a successful bid. Simon, Krolicki and Killoran all cited that a large base of people not only live in the Reno/Tahoe/Carson Valley region, but also Sacramento and the Bay Area, all of which lie in the Olympics’ required four-hour radius.

Krolicki defined the Olympic bid push as “grassroots” at this time, citing a bid for the 2016 summer Olympic games by Chicago. If the bid is successful, Krolicki said, a Reno/Tahoe bid would probably be out of the question for 2018.

“We’re doing a fine dance,” Krolicki said. “We hope Chicago does well, we hope the U.S. gets the bid.”

Chicago’s bid, Killoran said, which according to published reports is running neck and neck with Rio de Janiero, would be announced next October.

If Rio were to pull out the win, Krolicki said, the 2018 bid committee would go into overdrive recruiting investors and donors they have already begun to identify.

He said some of the infrastructure needed for the games is highlighted by the need for an Olympic-sized sheet of ice for competitions such a figure skating and hockey.

Killoran said infrastructure improvements would be needed, though a few existing venues have been preliminarily identified for the alpine skiing events. Chief among them is Squaw Valley USA, which hosted the Olympic games in 1960 and Heavenly Mountain Resort.

“We do live in an area with one of the highest concentration of resorts in the world,” Killoran said. “But for events like snowboarding and cross country skiing we want to really spread them around, not only to spread the wealth around but also the congestion.”

Killoran also said that in terms of infrastructure, Reno/Tahoe is currently ahead of Salt Lake City in terms of hotel rooms when Utah’s biggest city was bidding for the 2002 winter games, which it eventually won.

“We are a destination resort area, and I’m confident hotels will come to the area ” both Reno/Tahoe and Sacramento ” if the games came here,” Killoran said.

He said congestion, which some Tahoe residents have cited as a reservation about the games, would be well worth the hassle.

“We have times of the year that get pretty crowded and we’re talking about sustaining that for a two- to-three week time span,” Killoran said. “But the legacy the games would leave behind, in terms of positive environmental impacts, infrastructure and investments would be something area residents could enjoy for a long time to come.”

Killoran said the immediate next-step for the 2018 bid is to travel to Switzerland, where he and other members of the Reno/Tahoe board will meet with past Olympic organizers and a variety of high-ranking IOC officials.

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