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Denver Olympic pitch could revolutionize how to pay for the games

Posted at 7:11 PM, Oct 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-31 21:27:47-04

COLORADO SPRINGS –  Leaders with the United States Olympic Committee are getting ready to meet with the three cities hoping to host the Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games in 2030, and there’s a strong chance that the games could land in Colorado. The cities which have formed exploratory committees include  Denver, Salt Lake City and a combination proposal from Reno and Lake Tahoe in Nevada and Sacramento, Californa.

One of the unique aspects of Denver’s pitch is how the community plans paying for the event. A report released in June by the exploratory committee calls for the games to be privately funded and privately insured.

It would be a first in the history of the Olympic movement. Jeff Olson is a former Olympian and founder of the 2030 Legacy Now project, a grassroots effort to get the public in Colorado excited about bringing the Winter Games to the Rocky Mountains.

He called the private funding approach a pioneering idea.

“That’s kind of the Colorado way,” Olson said. “That’s the way I think the majority of Coloradoans are supportive of this effort right now, is once you understand, oh it’s privately funded, then how do we ask the next set of questions.”

The exploratory committee’s report breaks down how the private financing model is possible. Around 30 percent of the money would come through sponsorship deals, 27 percent from ticket sales, and another 30 percent as a contribution from the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC money is a game changer. It’s one of the new reforms to come out of the governing body’s Agenda 2020 reforms.

“I think now they’re putting their money where their mouth is with this close to a billion dollars up front for Olympic cities,” Olson said.

El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller called said there was talk about Colorado making a bid for the Olympics years ago when he served in the State Legislature. He thinks the private financing aspect of this deal would have broad appeal if the committee were to ask for a public vote for support.

“Several people have said throughout the years, you know look, we’d like to have them here but not at taxpayer expense,” Waller said. “So, I think it’s one of those deals where if we can bring them here using private sector funding, that’s something people can get behind.”

He and Olson both believe the USOC and IOC would be hard-pressed to find better facilities than Colorado’s ski resorts.

“I think Colorado from a geographical or topographical perspective is the perfect place for the Winter Olympics and I think that’s why we would be considered,” Waller said.

Leaders at the USOC will travel to Utah next month to meet with the exploratory committee supporting a return of the games to Salt Lake City. A spokesperson for the Denver exploratory committee said today in a statement that they are in continual dialogue with the USOC.

A decision about which city the USOC will support in that 2030 bid could come as soon as their December board meeting.