Vail Valley Partnership CEO: Hosting the Winter Olympics is an idea worthy of study (column)
February 22, 2018
Eagle County is well represented at the Winter Olympic Games. Congratulations and kudos to all the athletes who call Eagle County home.
Similar kudos to Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, who, along with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, has assembled an independent group of civic and community leaders from around the state to determine whether Denver should submit a bid for a future Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games when the United States Olympic Committee issues a call for U.S. cities interested in being candidates for consideration.
The Exploratory Committee is working, first and foremost, to determine if hosting a future Winter Olympics would be good for Denver and Colorado. That includes, among other factors, identifying ways for the games to be financed privately and determining what legacy an Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games would leave for Colorado. The committee is working with communities and stakeholders throughout the state to determine if an Olympic Winter Games bid is feasible.
Hancock and Hickenlooper deserve credit for exploring hosting the Olympics. We'd be crazy not to at least explore what this opportunity might provide our state.
Kelly Brough from the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce recently outlined Colorado's history of hosting major events (Democratic National Convention, World Alpine Ski Championships) as well as the fact that every U.S. city to host the Olympics since 1960 has generated a surplus budget (consider Salt Lake City as an example — they finished the games with a surplus of $50 million). For those who think it's simply too many people in too short a time frame and would create too much traffic, consider the Olympics draw 600,000 people over 17 days (compared to the National Western Stock Show, which earlier this year drew 700,000 people over 16 days).
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"The Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games present the opportunity for our community to evaluate the economic and social costs and benefits of bringing world-class athletes from around the world to our city, region and state in the spirit of competition, friendship and fair play," Hancock said in a statement in the Denver Business Journal.
"Colorado is a true leader in the outdoor recreation industry. Our state would be an ideal location for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and I look forward to hearing more about that possibility from the exploratory committee," Hickenlooper said. "An event of this magnitude requires that communities come together to collaborate. That's our sweet spot in the Centennial State."
That's not so suggest that Colorado should pursue the Olympics, but rather to suggest that we should absolutely research hosting the Olympics. The "no growth" community — concerned that hosting an Olympics might draw attention to our legendary quality of life, increase traffic in our state, or put pressure on our already stressed housing market — is missing the larger point and opportunity.
They are missing the point that hosting the Olympics could help solve community issues such as traffic, infrastructure and affordable housing. Discounting the opportunity to utilize an event of this size, scale and scope without proper due diligence is both short-sighted and simple-minded.
I can't say the Olympics is a bad idea, or a good idea; but I am open-minded to either outcome, with the full knowledge that Colorado is going to continue to grow at a furious rate regardless of where the games are held. I can say that saying no to opportunities such as the Olympics in hopes Colorado won't grow is a fool's errand.
Coloradans are encouraged to visit the Committee's website to participate in this conversation.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com.