Colorado lost out in its bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics and Paralympics to its only competitor on Friday, as the United States Olympic Committee tapped Salt Lake City to represent the country in competition for the 2030 games.
The exploratory committee in Colorado lamented the choice, while the robust community of anti-Olympics skeptics rejoiced at the news. “Christmas has come early!” tweeted Denver City Council candidate Tony Pigford.
But Friday’s USOC decision doesn’t bring an end to the local political drama concerning the Olympics. There’s still a good chance Denverites will be voting on the matter in May.
The group behind the Let Denver Vote ballot effort says it’s not pulling its measure, and will continue collecting signatures in hopes of qualifying for next year’s municipal election. The group, which is led by neighborhood activists, lawyers, a City Council candidate and former Gov. Dick Lamm — who almost 50 years ago led an effort to thwart the 1976 games in Colorado — formed to make sure any pursuit of the 2030 Winter Games would occur only if the games could be guaranteed to be privately funded and approved by voters.
For all but one modern Olympics, taxpayers in the host cities and regions have been responsible for covering the games’ cost overruns, which is perhaps the biggest reason so few cities are jazzed anymore about hosting; that Denver and Colorado were vying this time around against just one other candidate speaks to the International Olympic Committee’s recent failure to drum up excitement among potential hosts.
“The USOC choice to move ahead with Salt Lake means that Denver and Colorado taxpayers are not at immediate risk for potential cost overruns in this round of bidding on the Winter Games,” Let Denver Vote said in a statement provided Friday. “However, that could change at any time, as planned host cities often drop out once it becomes clear that cost estimates were unrealistic and the cost or risk of hosting snowballs, as happened recently in Calgary.”
Christine O’Connor, a lawyer and organizer behind Let Denver Vote, said the ballot effort would continue — even if it’s simply an insurance policy for Olympic skeptics at this point.
“We have our own race to the finish here in Colorado,” she said.
The exploratory committee in Colorado featured three dozen people, primarily from positions of power in the political, business and sports worlds. Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock convened the group.
The committee, recognizing what a raw deal hosting the Olympics has historically been for taxpayers, proposed a new funding model that boosters said would require no taxpayer dollars and would instead rely upon backing from corporations and insurance companies.
“I’m proud of the new and unique model for hosting an Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games that was developed by the Denver and Colorado Exploratory Committee and presented to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC),” said Rob Cohen, the chair of the committee, in a statement. “We proposed hosting the Games in a new and innovative way, the Colorado Way, but we recognize that now may not be the right time for such a model.
“It is disappointing that one of the world’s great winter sports destinations will not have the opportunity to partner with the USOC on a future bid. … Yet I believe that our community is better for having gone through this process as we continue to look forward and pursue opportunities to showcase our great city and state on the world stage.”