DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado may try to win back an opportunity it turned down nearly 40 years ago. The city is being suggested as a possible host city for Winter Olympics in 2022.
Kieann Brownell, the president of the nonprofit Metro Denver Sports Commission, has been schmoozing the International Olympic Committee for years in hopes of getting an Olympics here.
The 2018 Winter Olympics were just awarded to Pyeongchang, South Korea. After watching the cheering on TV over the announcement Brownell told CBS4 she and many other Colorado leaders are now “dreaming big dreams.”
In 1972 Coloradans rejected the Olympics after winning the bid to be the host city, largely over concerns about environmental issues and costs. However, Brownell believes Denver is a much different city now than it was then.
“(The rejection) is going to have to be something addressed and talked about but I really believe that, in the international Olympic movement, we’ve been forgiven,” said Kieann Brownell.
In recent years Denver has become a popular destination for some very high-profile events; from the Democratic National Convention to the NCAA Final Four.
Brownell says Colorado would be equipped to host the Winter Games with its world-class airport and abundant hotel space.
Also, Invesco Field at Mile High can seat 76,000 people and could most likely handle the opening ceremonies without a hitch. The Pepsi Center could handle figure skating and curling.
“We have 10 of the 16 venues already in place, which puts us well ahead of most Olympic bidders,” Brownell said.
If the games were to come here Brownell says a speed skating oval and sliding track for bobsledding and luge would need to be built.
When talk of an Olympics in Denver comes up, most Coloradans wonder how bad the traffic situation would be on Interstate 70. More people than ever would be driving to and from the mountain ski resorts on the highway, which is already heavily used in the winter months. Brownell said the situation has been worse in other host cities.
“There was one portion of the (road to alpine events in Italy) that was a two lane road for about 40 kilometers, so if you think about I-70 today, it’s far better,” she said.
Potential competitors for the 2022 Winter Olympics could include Anchorage, AK, Lake Tahoe, Nev., Quebec City, Kazakhstan and Switzerland.
The biggest stumbling block to Denver being host might be revenue sharing talks between the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee. A spokesman for the USOC told CBS4 “we are not currently contemplating a bid for an Olympic or Olympic Winter Games before finalizing our business discussions with the IOC.”
When he was campaigning for the state’s top post, Gov. John Hickenlooper said he was open to exploring the idea of hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics. He said the economic payoff has to justify what are likely to be multibillion-dollar costs. So far there are no hard, fast numbers for the economic impact or cost.
After two weeks in the international spotlight as host city last year Vancouver faced a tab in the $6 billion range. Even the most optimistic accountants say breaking even is a long shot, as no host city of an Olympic games have shown a profit since Los Angeles in 1984.