Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Governor John Hickenlooper are beginning to make the rounds in the community, gauging interest in pursuing a bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic.
Predictably, much of the press following the situation surrounds how much business the Olympic Games might bring to Colorado and how great it would be for our community to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Hancock and Hickenlooper are not going about this process willy-nilly. They are approaching business leaders and gauging interest before mounting an all out effort.
However, it appears that both the mayor and the governor may be forgetting to talk to the most important, and as history proves, most fickle, private group in Colorado: voters.
Voters are the people that nuked the Olympic effort for the 1976 games, and if Hancock and Hickenlooper are not careful, it could happen again.
Denverites and Coloradans seem to be okay paying for stadiums and arenas to keep their favorite teams in town, but they may not feel the same way about building bobsled tracks.
An important reason to go to voters with the idea sooner than later is that I find it hard to imagine that the International Olympic Committee will forget that voters rejected them forty years ago. I know that’s a tired theme, but it must be addressed first and foremost, if an Olympic bid is ever to become a reality.
I have to believe that deep in their hearts, both Hancock and Hickenlooper know that the IOC will likely want to make Colorado really beg for the opportunity to be a host city, and would love to turn them down. Unless the IOC is an unusually forgiving institution, and it just might be, they are going to want Colorado to pay, maybe literally, for past transgressions.
Getting Colorado voters to support the idea of working for an Olympic bid is much easier said than done. That’s especially true when you consider that those same voters will need to be convinced to back the idea during a significant recession.
However difficult the task is, getting voters excited about the potential bid is even more important than getting businesses behind it. I believe it can be done through some basic honesty and research.
First, Hickenlooper and Hancock need to be honest with Colorado voters about the potential costs. No host city ever gets the chance to host the Olympics for free. What will it cost, and what will we truly receive in return?
Another key element that needs to be presented to voters is the opinions of voters from other host cities. Was it worth it? Was the headache and heartache and crush of thousands of visitors worth what it brought to your community?
If other voters provide a positive response, it could be an extremely powerful tool in getting Colorado voters on board. Salt Lake City, a recent host of the Winter Olympics, would be a great place to examine the real worth of being a host city.
If other voters provide a negative response, it could still be used as an extremely powerful tool, but this time, to deflate voter support. That potential must be taken into account since we can guarantee strong forces in Colorado will fight a bid like this because it will cost taxpayers.
Hosting major events like the Olympics are always good for a community’s collective ego. That would certainly be true for Denver as well. As Patricia Calhoun has aptly said many times, Denver is the Sally Field of cities. We like people to like us, really like us.
But before we try to get the IOC to like us, again, we need to be sure that the same group that left them at the altar in 1976 still doesn’t have cold feet.
About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.