Watching the 2018 Winter Olympics from PyeongChang has been an exciting experience for many Denverites. Now many are pondering what it would be like for Denver to host its own Winter Games in 2030.
The Denver Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation organization recently hosted a public debate – or conversation, as participants preferred to call it—between members of “Sharing the Gold,” Denver’s Olympic exploratory committee, and opponents of Denver’s Olympic aspirations. Held at the Park Hill United Congregational Church on March 10, the event filled every pew.
Bidding for the Olympics is a controversial issue. While the excitement, opportunity and prestige that the Games bring to a community is appealing, opponents say that the costs outweigh the benefits. Historically, cities spend more to host Olympic Games than the revenue generated, and many host cities build infrastructure and temporary venues that become albatrosses.
At the meeting, Sharing the Gold members Rob Cohen, Steve McConahey and Jerome Davis represented the cautiously optimistic stance. Cohen, CEO of IMA Financial Group and the chair of the committee, emphasized no firm decision has been made on whether to submit a bid and the committee would only do so after listening to community concerns.
“What we’re trying to do with the exploratory committee is not make a decision upfront based on the old information we have about the games but ask ourselves the tough questions,” said Cohen. “Is this an opportunity for us as a community to do the games the Colorado way?”
McConahey, who is the Co-Chair of the Finance Sub-committee, later added, “The primary goal of our plan is to not require any subsidies or guarantees by state or local government.”
Panelists opposing the bid included former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm, who helped squelch an early 1970’s bid; RiNo developer, Kyle Zeppelin; and Chris Dempsey, who successfully led an effort to prevent Boston from submitting a 2024 Summer Olympics bid.
Dempsey was outspoken, labeling the Olympics a “three-week party on the taxpayer’s dime.” Through a well prepared PowerPoint slide show, he presented an exhaustive list of arguments against Denver’s Olympics bid. Among points Dempsey made were that the International Olympics Committee (IOC) won’t contribute to infrastructure needs and will require a taxpayer guarantee, that no games have ever been on budget, and that IOC interests align with corporate interests, not host cities’.
The audience at the meeting appeared to strongly favor the opposition side, raising questions about logistics, cost, snowfall, racial impact and affordable housing, among other critiques.
The exploratory committee will continue to meet with community groups before deciding whether to submit a bid, likely by April. For more information, see www.denver.org/explore-the-games/