Colorado and the Olympics

Recently, Colorado made headlines with announcements from the Governor and the Mayor of Denver that an exploratory committee would look into the possibility of Colorado bidding for the 2022 Olympic Games.  Just last week, however, the United States Olympic Committee announced that the US would not be seeking the 2022 Games.  Colorado has had an interesting role in Olympic history.  Many athletes train in Colorado, both on the slopes and in the Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs.

In 1970, when Colorado received word that it had been awarded the winter Olympics for 1976, the state was poised to make Olympic history – but not for reasons of hosting the games.  Colorado:  A History of the Centennial State (2005, University Press of Colorado), available from our library, tells the story of Colorado and the Olympics.  When first awarded the Games, Coloradans were thrilled, but as time progressed, the already development-concious state began to see the downsides of hosting the Olympics -lots of construction, lots of people, and lots of money.  The book relates how, by the time the figure of $100 million started to be talked about, many Coloradans seriously started to oppose hosting the Games.  Then, in 1973, Governor John Love resigned, “admitt[ing] that in negotiating for the games the boosters had ‘lied a bit.'”

One of the fiercest opponents of the Olympics was Richard Lamm, then serving as a Democratic state Representative from Denver.  He is largely given credit for swaying voters in the 1972 election to reject funding for the Olympics.  Two years later, he rode the wave of popularity to the Governorship.  Not only was the 1972 vote — which has the distinction of being the only time in history that a location awarded the Games has voted to reject it — an important part of Olympic history but, asserts Colorado, it was also responsible for ushering in a political “sea change” with the election of Lamm, Patricia Schroeder in Congress, and Gary Hart and Tim Wirth in the Senate, all ousting old-guard politicians who had held office for years.

For the complete story, check out Colorado:  A History of the Centennial State, which, unlike so many other local history books, covers not only the “early days” but events all the way up to the new millennium.  You can also search our library’s web catalog for more on the Lamm administration, a biography of Governor Love, and much more on the political climate of the 1970s.