Freud: Please don’t bring the Winter Olympics to Colorado (column)
No, no, no, and, in conclusion, hell no.
The Denver Olympic Exploratory Committee is looking into the city and environs, which would be us, hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics.
We’re going to leave aside the financial issues of hosting, which is why the Centennial State said “no” in its centennial year back in 1976, although we are wary of those who say that the state can make money on this venture.
We’re going to leave for another day the horrors of traffic along the Front Range among venues not to mention what would happen in the high country with venues at Copper Mountain, Beaver Creek and Steamboat Springs.
Let’s just focus on where everything would go, and you’ll see why the Mile High Olympics are pie in the sky.
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The ceremonies (Opening and Closing) are easy — Sports Authority Field at Mile High, although corporate sponsors at the Olympics aren’t allowed so call it Mile High again.
However, what do you do with men’s and women’s hockey, figure skating, speedskating, short-track skating and everyone’s new favorite sport, curling?
If Colorado hosts the Olympics, then the NHL will play, and games will be a hot ticket. Figure skating and short track — since the latter’s introduction to the games, they’ve been held in the same arena — are also big box office.
What goes where? And remember, hockey and figure skating/short track need different types of ice.
Salt Lake City in 2002 used the Vivent Smart Home Arena, capacity 17,500, aka where the Utah Jazz play, for figure skating and short track with the hockey in 10,000- and 8,400-seat arenas.
Vancouver, British Columbia, had a ton of rinks. Rogers Arena (18,500), the current home of the Canucks, was the main ice hockey site with the Thunderbird Sports Centre (7,500) as the auxiliary site for pucks. Meanwhile, the old home of the Canucks, the Pacific Coliseum (16,000), hosted figure skating and short track.
Given this history, the Pepsi Center is the home of figure skating and short track, while hockey goes Magness Arena (8,000), home of DU and the World Arena (7,750) down in Colorado Springs.
Those are awfully small venues for big-time events.
By the way, the alternatives are the Denver Coliseum (8,140 for hockey) or the Budweiser Events Center (5,289) in Loveland. The Coliseum is great if you’re a volleyball team going to state, but simply not an Olympic venue. Loveland’s main tenant is the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles, and would not be suitable for NHL players.
One of the ways to lessen the bill of a major undertaking such as the Olympics is to sell tickets. The proposed Colorado Olympics don’t have enough tickets to sell.
The Denver Olympic Exploratory Committee says that 13 of the 16 venues are already built with the exception of sliding (luge, bobsled and skeleton), ski jumping (if Steamboat Springs is not used) and Nordic.
Before we get to those, where’s speedskating going? International speedskating requires a 400-meter oval. Hockey rinks such as the Denver Coliseum or the Budweiser Events Center won’t do.
While the thought of turning Mile High into an 80,000-seat speedskating facility sounds cool, Olympic speedskating hasn’t been outdoors since 1992, and is likely not going back.
In fairness, the 2010 and 2014 ovals used in the Olympics were temporary facilities, repurposed for other activities. That there is no mention of where the heck the skating oval would be on http://www.explorethegames.com seems like a major oversight.
Alpine, freeskiing and snowboarding
Having hosted the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey and Raptor are a natural fit to reprise their roles for the Olympics.
Yes, Vail hosts the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships next week, and could be a snowboarding site, but looking back at 2015, there was merit to having the Worlds at Beaver Creek, while Vail was open for regular business during the lucrative month of February.
Ergo, snowboarding seems good fit for Copper Mountain. It’s got a pipe and slopestyle course, which have hosted World Cup events. It’s not hard to see big air ski cross, aerials and moguls courses going up nearby.
My big question for Beaver Creek and Copper is capacity. Yes, Beaver Creek handled the 2015 Worlds, but the Olympics will bring bigger crowds and more media. Copper looks pretty full on a regular day when you’re driving by on I-70. Will people be parking in Leadville? Along those lines, yes, of course, Aspen could host all this stuff, but Aspen is even more of a cluster-you-know-what with the X Games.
Wither the new venues?
As for the new venues — sliding, ski jumping (if it doesn’t stay up north) and Nordic — they need to be in the mountains. One of the cool things about Denver is that it can snow one day and be 60 degrees the next. That’s good if you live there. It’s not so good for hosting Winter Olympic events.
I have no idea where we’re going to be putting the sliding stuff. Seriously, who wants it? With apologies to Katie Uhlaender, we’re not a sliding mecca.
The Nordic and ski-jumping venues need to be thought through thoroughly.
First, yes, Maloit Park is a FIS-approved site for cross-country skiing, but Nordic sites for the Olympics also need facilities for shooting, i.e. the biathlon. Also with the Nordic combined events, you need a ski jump nearby. Steamboat is not exactly near Minturn.
If Denver 2026 sticks with the ski jump in Steamboat, then the Nordic venue with biathlon likely goes there. That means 18 medal events will be awarded there, as the Olympics continue to spread from Steamboat to Vail to Copper to Loveland to Colorado Springs, not exactly compact.
If not Steamboat, then where? Mount Sniktau? Of course, you haven’t heard of it because it was the proposed ski resort with ski jump to be built near Denver for 1976. It never happened.
And exploring all the logistics of finding venues for all the events, one can see why. Colorado doesn’t have the centralized facilities to host the games. It’s not like we need to host the Winter Games to put the state on the map with regard to snow sports. Colorado is pretty well known already in that regard.
No, no, no, and, in conclusion, hell no to the Olympics.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.