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Utah announces plans to bid for another Winter Olympics

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah officials announced plans Monday for a longshot bid for another Winter Olympics, saying they already have the venues in place and have left behind the taint of scandal from the 2002 games.

The bid for 2026 is contingent on the U.S. Olympic Committee deciding it will endorse a city for those games. Utah announced the bid far in advance to scare off any competitors, Reno-Tahoe among them. Nevada officials said Monday they were waiting for a USOC decision before making a possible bid of their own.

"You can't do this on the cheap. It's an expensive proposition,' Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Monday. "Utah is the smart and fiscally responsible place - we already have venues in place. There is no better place in the world than here."

Herbert said 40 percent of U.S. winter athletes train in Utah, and that the state was looking into adding housing to the Utah Olympic Park, the ski jumping and sliding venue.

Herbert and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker announced the tentative bid outside the University of Utah stadium, where ceremonies were held for the 2002 Winter Games.

"We are well-positioned financially and otherwise to host a Winter Games," Becker said.

The 2002 games were successful, but it left Salt Lake tarnished by scandal. Utah showered $1 million in cash, gifts and other favors on International Olympic Committee delegates in a scandal that rewrote the rule book for Olympic bids. Two Salt Lake bid executives were tried on federal racketeering charges but were acquitted.

The scandal "didn't start in Utah, but it ended in Utah," Herbert said of the scandal's legacy. "We'll start with that attitude and bid on the up and up."

Fraser Bullock, who was the No. 2 for the previous Salt Lake Organizing Committee, said Utah can put on the 2026 games with private funding for $1.67 billion, relying on the federal government to cover added security for a cost expected to reach hundreds of millions of dollars.

"The IOC likes to move games around, so that's our biggest negative," Bullock said.

He said Salt Lake City's biggest advantage is having a large urban center next to the 11,000-foot Wasatch Range, with improved highways and a light-rail transit network to get spectators around.

Fraser was part of the team called in to clean up the 2002 scandal, an effort led by Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential candidate and Massachusetts governor.

With new bidding rules in place for IOC delegates and candidate cities, Bullock said Utah can make a clean pitch.

"Every penny that's spent needs to be public from day one," Bullock said. "If that happens, we can avoid any problems."

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