Anchorage took its first tentative steps on Tuesday toward the 2026 Winter Olympics, with Mayor Dan Sullivan convening a meeting of sports, business, and government leaders to explore a bid for the Games.
Sullivan says his goal is to pull off the event without spending any public money. But before Anchorage can even make a play for the Games, the U.S. Olympic Committee must choose whether to support an American host city that year.
A spokesman for the USOC said that it will decide sometime in 2014 whether to back an American bid for the 2024 Summer Games. If it does, "it would be unlikely that we would bid for 2026, given the time frame," said the spokesman, Patrick Sandusky.
In Tuesday's meeting at City Hall, Sullivan acknowledged the USOC's uncertainty surrounding an Anchorage bid -- but he said he convened the committee so that the city could be ready.
"They told us to not get too excited just yet," he said. But, he added: "When the moment comes where they turn their focus to the Winter Games, when that happens, we want to be prepared."
Sullivan announced Tuesday that he'd appointed 26 members to the exploratory committee, which will examine things such as the city's athletic facilities, transportation infrastructure, accommodations and money needed to support a bid. He said the committee will deliver a report within eight months.
The appointees include current and former athletes like Olympic cross-country skier Kikkan Randall and biathlete Rachel Steer; business leaders like Carol Fraser, who manages the Millenium Alaskan Hotel; and government officials like Miles Baker, the state director for Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
It also includes several people associated with Anchorage's previous attempts to host a Winter Olympics, which came in 1992 and 1994.
Those past efforts would be reviewed closely by the committee, Sullivan said, and old booklets and brochures produced in the 1990s were on display at the meeting.
Sullivan said he would try to organize a bid without spending any public funds -- though the costs are daunting.
The last two cities that bid to host an Olympics -- New York, for the 2012 Games, and Chicago, for 2016 -- spent more than $10 million just to get selected by the USOC to compete against other international contenders. Both ultimately lost out.
Hosting the Games would cost far more, though raising the money from private sources, such as sponsors and developers, is "feasible," according to Bob Berland, a one-time Olympic silver medal winner in judo who was on the board of directors of Chicago's unsuccessful bid.
"You've got to find people that want to do the work, and are willing to take on the risk," he said in a phone interview Tuesday. "That's a big piece of it."
Reach Nathaniel Herz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4311.
By NATHANIEL HERZ