Could Denver Host the Next Winter Olympics?

by Kirsten Dobroth | October 2, 2017

Olympic Rings in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Will Denver play host city for the next Winter Olympics? It’s not the first time the question has been asked; Denver was awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics, but voters overwhelmingly rejected the bid citing the hefty bill that Sapporo, Japan was incurring for the 1972 games. But yet again, some in the Mile High City are pushing to bring the games following the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea and the scheduled games in Beijing in 2022 to Colorado for either to 2026 or 2030 Olympiad (Salt Lake City, which hosted the 2008 Winter Olympics, is also rumored to be in the mix). And while it might seem like an exciting prospect to bring a Winter Olympics to Colorado, some are already pushing against it (once again). Olympics cost a lot of money — Boston backed out of a bid to bring a summer Olympics to the area citing the past blown budgets by games in Beijing in the summer of 2008 and Sochi in the winter of 2014 (Sochi, in particular, spent almost $50 billion to play host). The Boston group tasked with trying to swing Massachusetts residents (and politicians), the Boston 2024 Partnership, insisted the private funds would cover the costs associated with bringing an Olympics to the Bay State, although that claim was widely disputed and the group ultimately dropped the effort when they encountered problems with fundraising.
And then there’s the issue of transportation and infrastructure. For anyone who’s sat in i-70 traffic, the idea of millions of people arriving at Denver International Airport and then making their way up to the i-70-adjacent resort communities that would be enlisted to host individual events probably send shivers up your spine —  and that doesn’t even account for parking issues, finding lodging for athletes and visitors in communities already dealing with a profound housing crunch, employees (and a place for them to live, citing the last issue), and the facilities that would need to be constructed to host certain events. Those facilities would probably need to be funded by public money, and then there’s the question of how—and if—they would be used after the 2-week event. Some mountain communities are already voicing their concern with such an undertaking; the Vail Daily editorial board penned an opinion piece that was published on September 26 titled, “Denver should run in terror from a Winter Olympics bid.” Others in both mountain towns and the Front Range also argue against the disruption of bringing such a massive event to Colorado would be for many residents.
And then— of course—there’s the people who are pushing for this to happen. First and foremost, there’s the obvious pull and allure of having the Olympics on home soil (and in the hometowns of some American athletes). There’s the economic boost that comes from bringing one of the world’s largest sporting events to Denver (and all the other communities of Colorado that would ultimately end up hosting events). Beaver Creek and Vail were the sites for the 2015 FIS Ski World Championships (albeit a much smaller event than the Olympics), and the local reception after the fact was that it didn’t end up being as crazy as many assumed it would be, and they had a chance to see local athletes like Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin in action. The jury’s still out on whether Coloradans will see these two in front of the home crowd with medals around their necks, and many questions need to be answered to be able to even imagine that happening—but, putting aside all the fine details of how to actually get a Winter Olympics to come to Colorado, it sure makes for an exciting prospect.

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