Informal talks this week between Denver’s mayor and Colorado’s governor about the 2022 Winter Olympics would be the start of a long process full of hurdles, should Denver make a serious bid for the Games.
On Sunday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper confirmed to the Denver Post that the idea interests them, but both expressed awareness of how long and winding any road to the Olympics would be.
“In this economy, the city or state would not be eager to pursue putting together a bid,” Hickenlooper admitted. “That’s where the business community would really need to come in to help.If the people of the state seem willing, my suspicion is the business community will step in.”
Denver is the only city to ever have turned down an awarded Winter Games, which it did for the 1976 event after voters rejected a $5 million bond issue. Since then, costs have risen exponentially.
The last Games held in the United States, the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002, cost $2 billion.
Vancouver spent $6 billion for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and the Russian city of Sochi expends to spend $33 billion for the 2014 Games, according to an AP report based on a Russian newspaper story.
A light rail system is planned for the Soshi Games, and Denver might also consider such a system within its potential bid.
Part of the reason Denver withdrew from its 1976 award of the Games was because of concerns among citizens about environmental impacts.
“I come down on believing strongly that the voters did the right thing,” Dick Lamm, who was governor at the time, told the Colorado Independent in March. “The history of the Winter Olympics was a history of red ink, and I believe it would have left Colorado with a very large expense and a worse environment.”
Since then, traffic congestion on I-70 between Denver and the state’s ski areas has worsened significantly.
“It could prove to be a powerful incentive to find a solution to solve the challenge of getting up to the mountains on I-70 during the weekends,” Gov. Hickenlooper told the Denver Post, referring to a potential Games bid.
A feasibility study submitted last year by the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority indicated that a high-speed rail system between Denver and such famed ski resorts as Aspen, Breckenridge, Vail, and Steamboat Springs would cost $16 billion.
The chances of a U.S. city getting the 2022 Winter Games improved last week, when the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) decided not to submit a city’s name bid for the 2020 Summer Games because of a continuing financial dispute with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The USOC has long taken 20 percent share of global sponsorship revenues and 12.75 percent of U.S. broadcast rights deals for the Games, but the IOC wants more of those funds, ESPN reported.
Sports officials in Colorado had been eager to bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics, according to the Colorado Independent, but the USOC decided to focus its efforts on getting the 2016 Summer Games for Chicago. That city finished fourth.
Earlier this year, the 2018 Winter Games were awarded to Pyeongchang in South Korea.
Several media outlets have quoted Chicago Tribune outdoor writer Philip Hersh’s comment on Monday that Denver undoubtedly should be the site of the next Olympics in the U.S.
“Denver and its region have everything they need to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics,” Hersh wrote.
In addition to the ski resorts, Colorado has also an Olympics training venue in Colorado Springs.
When the final stage of the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge drew more than 250,000 spectators lining the route from Golden into downtown Denver on Sunday, it gave a boost to thoughts of the Olympic Games in Denver, according to Real Vail.
The seven-day event attracted more than a million spectators.