Can Colorado’s Olympic flame burn once again?
Ryan Summerlin March 21, 2011
VAIL – Dick Lamm has been in these Winter Olympic crosshairs so often he’s got to feel like a biathlon target.
Lamm will join Steve McConahey and Premier Gordon Campbell in a Vail Symposium panel discussion about whether Colorado should pursue the Winter Olympics.
Colorado was awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics and is still the only city to ever win the Games and then say “no thanks.”
Now, though, a few sparks are flickering around Colorado’s Olympic flame, and proponents say it’s time to try again.
Lamm, a former Colorado governor famous for saying all kinds of things that turned out to be true, isn’t tipping his hand about what side of the Olympic fence he might come down upon.
“I am there only to respond to other panelists,” Lamm said. “I have taken no position on any possible Colorado bid for a future Olympics.”
Campbell was instrumental in leading the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, considered by many as one of the most successful Olympic Games in history. During his decade as British Columbia’s premier, Campbell built one of the most competitive economies in North America and oversaw the creation of more than 420,000 jobs in a province with a population of just more than 4 million.
Before being elected premier, he was the mayor of Vancouver, a developer and a school teacher in Nigeria.
McConahey is immediate past chairman of the Denver Metro Sports Commission, the group that wants to bring the Olympics to Colorado. During the 1970s, he served as special assistant to President Gerald Ford, program administrator for the Urban Mass Transit Administration for the U.S. Department of Transportation and White House Fellow.
These days, Lamm is co-director of the Institute for Public Policy Studies at the University of Denver.
On Nov. 8, 1972, Colorado voters decisively voiced their anti-Olympic sentiments by passing Amendment 8, which cut off state funds for the 1976 games. It passed by a 5-to-3 margin.
The effort was led by Lamm, then a fiery young member of the Colorado state legislature. Lamm later served as Colorado’s 38th governor from 1975 to 1987.
“The voters decided in 1972 not to put any more state funds into the Colorado 1976 Olympics,” Lamm said. “I did help lead that movement and believe the voters did the right thing.”
The vote snuffed Colorado’s Olympic torch, putting an end to the eight-year effort of many business, civic and political leaders to bring the Games to the state. Voters said they feared the high costs and the additional taxes and questioned the credibility of the Denver Olympic Organizing Committee.
With one exception – the amendment was rejected only in mountain counties, which stood to benefit from increased tourism and development associated with the Games, according to the Rocky Mountain News.
Utah immediately said the Beehive State would be happy to host the Games, which did, eventually, land in Salt Lake.
Those 1976 Olympics went to Innsbruck, Austria, site of the 1964 games.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.