Summit County residents mixed on possible Olympics bid
December 22, 2011
Breckenridge — Former Breckenridge Mayor Ernie Blake will join public and private sector leaders from across the state on the newly formed Olympic exploratory committee, which will decide whether Denver should bid to host the 2022 Olympic games.
"Ernie really understands the infrastructure of Summit County," current Breckenridge Mayor John Warner said. "He is a person who's spent a lot of time in the resort community."
Blake joins a group of 22 people on the committee, which includes public, private and non-profit sector leaders along with former Olympians.
The committee will begin meeting Jan. 7 to "examine the financial issues, the feasibility and the economic impact of a potential bid and answer questions about such things as protocol, timing, venue requirements and process," according to a recent statement from Gov. John Hickenlooper's office.
Local leaders' reactions to the idea of the Winter Games coming to Colorado, and possibly Summit County, ranged from enthusiastic to reserved.
Some Breckenridge Town Council members were excited about the possibility of hosting events and the national and international exposure it would bring to the area, while others were concerned about which events would be assigned to different communities, wasted infrastructure and the broader effects of such a big event.
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"I would caution organizers to really understand what the capacity of these resort communities are, both physically and environmentally," Warner said. "I still worry about the impacts of that many people in a place like Summit County or Eagle County. So I would be cautious."
The exploratory committee is not made up of only Olympic champions either, but includes critics as well, co-chair Anne Warhover said.
Support for bid
But many residents of Summit County showed strong support for an Olympic bid.
"I think it would be great for the economy and a great chance to exhibit to the world (the) rich winter sports culture we hold in Colorado," said Zach Fretz of Dillon. "It could also held build some infrastructure (like) a more effective transportation system through the I-70 corridor."
Colorado Department of Transportation officials have speculated that an Olympic bid might hasten the construction of a high-speed rail system through the corridor.
If Denver were to win the bid, it would have a significant economic impact on the state, Warhover, simply by the volume of people and sponsors that would be drawn to Colorado.
She said she expects the payback of the Olympics tends to be slower and longer lasting than many events as people remember the setting of the games they watched on TV in making later vacation decisions.
Denver was given the bid to host the 1976 Winter Olympics, but led by then future Gov. Dick Lamm, a 59 percent majority voted in 1972 not to spend tax dollars to host the games.
The USOC has said having turned down the Olympics before will not hurt Colorado's chances of winning the bid again, Warhover said.
Denver cannot submit a bid until the U.S. Olympic Committee decides whether a U.S. city will compete to host the 2022 Olympics and begins accepting bids. Colorado would have to win the bid for the United States to be considered among other interested cities worldwide by the International Olympic Committee.
"We are aware Denver is forming an exploratory committee to look at the possibility of a bid for an Olympic Winter Games," USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky stated in the release. "As we have stated to Denver and other interested cities, the USOC is not focused on bids at this time."
If a bid is submitted it would be for Denver, where the opening and closing ceremonies would be held, but some of the events would likely be held in the mountains, similar to what was done in other Olympic venues, according to committee leaders.
"There are a lot of I-don't-knows right now," Warhover said.
More information about what, where and how much will become available when the committee begins its work, she said.