Colorado

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Pro-Olympics or #NOlympics? Denver Might See Another Referendum

2 May, 2018

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

To say Denver has a special place in Olympic history is perhaps putting it mildly. As the first city to ever be awarded the Games (for 1976) and then have to turn them down, thanks to a public referendum, it is looked upon as either a groundbreaker or an ungrateful upstart. And that last one is the most the flattering term.

But some officials in the city want to give hosting another go and are eyeing the 2030 Winter Games. And just as it was before, there is opposition. In fact, that opposition is encouraging another public referendum.

And that’s where it gets interesting. The leader of the group that is digging in its heels against hosting is none other than Colorado’s ex-Governor Dick Lamm. Lamm, as Olympic trivia buffs will recall, was the point person for the first referendum all the way back in the 70s when he was relatively new on the political scene. Now retired and in his eighties, Lamm is proving he is still able to help harness the energy of the anti-Games movement.

According to an article in Inside The Games, a recent public debate held in Denver featured not just the two sides of the argument (Pro-Olympics and what has been named the NOlympics), but #NoBostonOlympics co-chairman Chris Dempsey. (Dempsey’s group, as you’ll recall, led a campaign which caused a dramatic decline in public support for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Boston after the city had been named the U.S. Bid City. Their opposition resulted in the United States Olympic Committee and the city agreeing to drop the bid within months.)

And when it comes to frankness, Dempsey’s still got it:

"If there are challenges that Denver has about housing or transportation or healthcare, it’s up to the people of Colorado to fix that not Princess Nora of Liechtenstein or the Sheikh of Kuwait," Dempsey said, according to 9News. "If you want to fix things for your day to day citizens focus on that, don’t focus on a free week party in the year 2030 where they fly in for two to three weeks and then leave town."

Denver had originally been targeting the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympics but the USOC recently stated that because of L.A. hosting the 2028 Games, the earliest Olympics the U.S. intends to bid on is 2030.

The Exploratory Committee is expected to make a recommendation about whether to pursue a bid or not this month. Presently, a referendum has not been scheduled.

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