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Olympics - Region looks toward 2022

Placer County and Reno carrying torch for Winter Games venue
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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It’s an old flame and every four years, when the Winter Olympics are staged elsewhere, hopes of a return tend to burn a little brighter in Placer County. This year is no exception and with the games winding down, the possibility of another Olympics in Placer County is being rekindled. Placer County – home of the 1960 Olympics at Squaw Valley – and Reno have teamed over the past three years to bring the games back. With the 2010 winter games coming to an end in Vancouver, Canada, the Olympic flame is being passed to Russia, where the 2014 Olympiad will be held in Sochi. The Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition bowed out at the request of the U.S. Olympic Committee to give Chicago a better shot at the 2016 summer games. Now proponents of a local games are aiming for a renewed run at the 2022 Olympics. Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, is part of the Reno-Tahoe coalition and recently took in Olympic events at the Vancouver games. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to go to Vancouver and see how it brings people together from all around the world,” Gaines said. “It does develop goodwill among folks.” The Tahoe area is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Squaw Valley Olympics while looking ahead to a return engagement. Gaines said the Reno-Tahoe games effort is finding strong support and the games coalition continues to actively look forward to a 2022 bid. “I think it’s a perfect venue in terms of bed space in Reno, Interstate 80 and the variety of resorts,” Gaines said. “We need an incredible organizational effort focused on putting the bid together.” That includes local support from communities that can see a benefit, Gaines said. Those benefits could come in “legacy” projects like affordable housing and transportation infrastructure that could last long after the Olympic athletes have departed, he said. The bid would have to make a compelling argument that the event would be sensitive to the local environment, Gaines said. “That would mean making clear that the focus of the games would not be in the Tahoe basin,” he said. Squaw Valley USA had just one chairlift when the Olympic Committee announced that its bid for the games had been accepted. Today it is a world-class ski venue with several other resorts also built nearby. Amelia Richmond, Squaw Valley USA spokeswoman, said that the Olympic culture is already present, with several Olympians growing up and skiing at the resort. A Reno-Tahoe games could see mountain events held at resorts while skating, hockey, curling and other ice sports could be held in Reno, Richmond said. Rachel Woods, Alpine Meadows ski resort spokeswoman, said the Olympics host role would be an appropriate one, given the area’s games heritage. “And it would make it easy on the many Olympians in our area, who wouldn’t have to travel far,” Woods said. “There are many different aspects to consider but it would definitely bring a lot of excitement to an area renowned for winter sports.” Auburn’s Cynthia Haynes said she’s been watching the Olympics every night on TV and would be excited at the opportunity to see the event live. “And it would be beneficial to the economic development of Northern California and Nevada,” Haynes said. ”It could also make us have another look at public transportation, with the possibility of people parking at Auburn and then taking a fast train to skiing.”