For 2022 Winter Games, USOC should get a Rocky Mountain high
Denver the best choice for next Olympic host in USA
Monte Meier, a five-time Paralympian, winning a national title at Vail, a ski mecca (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images / December 16, 2013)
Denver and its region have everything they need to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
Much more, in fact, than the city and region could have offered when they threw back the 1976 Olympics because a statewide referendum rejected a $5 million bond issue to finance the Winter Games 2 1/2 years after the International Olympic Committee chose Denver.
And now that the U.S. Olympic Committee has made the expected decision not to bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics, it is time for USOC officials to see if Denver's expressed interest in the 2022 Winter Games is sincere.
I know the USOC's mantra is there will be no bid for any Olympics before it can resolve the longstanding dispute with the IOC over revenue sharing. If no solution can be found before 2022 bids are due in 2013, there may never be one.
Assuming that money problem is ironed out and assuming Denver is in for both a dime and a lot of dollars, there would be no reason for the USOC to have a domestic bid process. It should simply begin working with Denver to have the best possible bid when the International Olympic Committee selects the 2022 host sometime in 2015.
And here are 10 reasons why.
1. Denver -- and the Colorado ski resorts - would have to build just two items of consequence to have a Winter Olympics.
One is a bob / luge / skeleton run, a costly potential white elephant.
But a partnership with the Air Force Academy to build that facility on its land in Colorado Springs would make it more attractive and useful. That would allow sliding athletes from the United States -- and the rest of the world -- to live at the nearby Olympic Training Center while training or competing on the run.
The 7,000-foot altitude would make it easier to keep the run frozen, even with Colorado's abundant sunshine. And it's a relatively easy drive from Denver, so the lower sections could be turned into a family fun ride when elite athletes weren't using it.
Making the training center available to foreign athletes (who could train for figure skating and short track at the World Arena in Colorado Springs) in the years before a Colorado Olympics would fit right into the USOC's new emphasis on improved international relations.
For long-track speedskating, why not either a temporary facility or one like the 2010 Olympic venue in Richmond, B.C., which since has become a multi-purpose sports and fitness center used for basketball, indoor soccer, hockey, badminton, indoor track, table tennis, volleyball, rowing and paddling, all of which can take place simultaneously?
2. Denver still was a low-energy cow town in the mid-1970s. I learned that while waiting for a taxi on a center city street during a Friday afternoon rush hour. Not a single cab, occupied or unoccupied, passed in a 10-minute span.
Now it is a gleaming city with vibrant downtown areas and arenas / stadiums hosting major league baseball, football, hockey and basketball teams, plus the facilities of Denver University.
And it has a major international airport (alas, seemingly in Kansas), with non-stop flights to Europe and easy connections to Asia through West Coast hubs. With the growth of Asian economies, it is not a stretch to imagine non-stops to Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo in the near future.
3. The USOC long has had a good working relationship with many elected officials in Denver and Colorado. That could help avoid the frictions that occurred between USOC leaders and bid officials in New York (2012) and Chicago (2016) after the USOC chose those cities to bid (in vain) for the Summer Olympics.