Salt Lake City still basking in 2002 Winter Games legacies

Since successfully hosting the Olympic Winter Games in 2002, Salt Lake City has enjoyed a number of significant legacies, ranging from infrastructural improvements and economic benefits to the enhancement of the city’s reputation as a winter sports hub. The venues that hosted the dazzling sports action 12 years ago, for instance, are still used today for major events, elite training and recreational purposes.

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© IOC / Christian Klaue President Bach at the Super Sprint World Championship Women’s finals in Hamburg.

Residents, visitors and international athletes can benefit from world-class facilities for skating, hockey, curling, bobsleigh, ski jumping and many other activities at venues such as the Utah Olympic Oval and the Utah Olympic Park, which are both operated by the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation – the organisation that is responsible for managing and maintaining the Olympic legacy facilities and providing opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to participate and excel in winter sports.

The Utah Sports Commission, meanwhile, was created prior to 2002 to help further the legacy of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games by partnering with venues and other organisations throughout Utah to attract major sporting events to the state.

Since hosting the 2002 Winter Games, Utah has staged more than 60 World Cup events, as well as seven world championships and numerous other sporting and non-sporting events. The area is also now an established training hub for world-class athletes as well as home to three national sports governing bodies.

All of this has had a significant impact on Salt Lake City’s economy, which had already been boosted in the years prior to 2002. Indeed, in the build-up to the Games, approximately 35,000 job years of employment were created, while workers employed because of the Games earned around US$1.5 billion.

In the years since the Games, approximately US$1 billion has been pumped into Utah’s economy as a result of hosting subsequent sporting events, while the tourism industry has also been boosted due to the worldwide exposure that Salt Lake City has enjoyed, with Utah witnessing a 42 per cent increase in skier visits since 2002.

Direct expenditures from skiers and snowboarders have also increased, growing 67 per cent from $704 million in 2002-03 to $1.2 billion in 2010-11, according to the Economic Development Corporation of Utah.

The area also enjoyed a number of infrastructural improvements ahead of the Games, which are still benefiting the local community today, including more hotel rooms, greater ski resort amenities, a completely revamped freeway system, two light railway lines and the replacement of the city’s 150 year-old utilities.

As Colin Hilton, president and CEO of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, said recently: "We view legacy not so much as memorials and museums. For us, it’s a living legacy."