Winter Olympics group briefs Truckee |

Winter Olympics group briefs Truckee

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunJim Simon of the Reno Tahoe Winter Games 2018 Coalition; Nancy Cushing, owner of Squaw Valley USA; Jim Vanden Heuvel, chief executive officer of the coalition; and Carolyn Dee of Squaw Valley, stand by the Olympic flame commemorating the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley USA.

The world’s best skiers, skaters and other winter athletes may return to the Tahoe area nearly 60 years after Squaw Valley hosted the region’s first Olympics Winter Games.

But before submitting a formal application, local sponsors of a proposed new Olympic Games visited Truckee Town Hall Tuesday to solicit community leaders for their advice about the region hosting the event.

Aiming for a 2018 bid, the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition has members ranging from Brian Krolicki, Nevada’s lieutenant governor, to California Assemblyman Ted Gaines. Applications to the U.S. Olympic Committee are due by 2009.

But before the torch could make a return appearance in the Reno-Tahoe area, proponents want to study the games’ potential impacts and the needs of Truckee-Tahoe residents.

“We want to make this an opportunity for Truckee rather than a burden,” said Attorney Jim Simon, a local board member of the coalition, after Tuesday’s meeting.

“We are moving ahead in organizing a Truckee-Tahoe task force to get input from the community ” to make sure the needs of the area are identified and addressed.”

After Tuesday’s meeting, Truckee Mayor Barbara Green expressed some initial concerns over possible environmental impacts and increased traffic. As a mother of a past Olympian, Green said she is a fan of the games, but is cautious about the event’s impacts on the local area.

“I went to the 84 games in [Los Angeles] for my son, and they were able to handle the traffic, but I shudder to think what it would be like here,” Green said.

While the games could be good for business, Green questioned how durable the gains would be.

“It would be a shot in the arm for two weeks, but what would the lingering effects be?” she said.

President Stefanie Olivieri of the Truckee Downtown Merchants Association, a member of the Mountain Area Preservation’s governing board, experienced first-hand the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, and was unimpressed by the boost to the Tahoe economy.

“I didn’t find it to be a positive at all for businesses,” Olivieri said. “It took its toll and left a lot of white elephants.”

Many structures built for the 1960 Winter Games had to be removed or replaced, she explained.

But preliminary plans for the 2018 bid include ways to minimize some of those problems, Vanden Heuvel said.

The majority of building could occur in the Reno area, using the Truckee-Tahoe area only for alpine and snowboarding events, he said, adding that public transit could keep the volume of traffic down.

“We don’t want to build a lot of sports infrastructure in Truckee or Lake Tahoe,” Vanden Heuvel said. “We’d want to improve mass transit, take advantage of alternative fuels, create park and recreation amenities ” basically sustainable benefits.”

The potential bid would heavily weigh environmental impacts, Simon said, aiming for a net-zero impact, if not making environmental improvements.

In the end, Green said town leaders need to understand a lot more about the games potential impacts before they can decide to support the application.

“We need to have a real thorough analysis,” Green said. “We need to find out what the pros and cons are, and which one outweighs the other.”

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