Finding the Gold

‘No public money’ for hosting Olympics isn’t so black and white

Two prominent, distinct narratives exist for Olympics host cities. One woven by proponents touts the growth the games can bring in the form of tourism and job opportunities. The other emerges after the closing ceremony and is told by resulting debt and photographs of decaying venues the city can’t afford to maintain or repurpose.

Denver has formed an exploratory committee to consider whether to pursue a bid for a future Olympics hosting in 2030. The committee is expected to submit a final report to Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock with recommendations to pursue a bid or not by mid-May. With the lingering memory of Dick Lamm’s successful campaign against Denver hosting the 1976 Winter Olympics, which resulted in an amendment to Colorado’s Constitution that prohibited using public money to host the Games, it seems Denver has a uniquely thorny relationship with funding options.

Although that amendment has since been rescinded, Hickenlooper told Colorado Public Radio in February a possible hosting wouldn’t use public money, a statement that echoes discussions by the exploratory committee. But as experts in Olympics economics said such a statement isn’t so black-and-white.

“It’s a talking point that bid committees in the United States feel compelled to say, because they know that taxpayers have other priorities, but it is never accurate to say that these are purely privately funded,” said Chris Dempsey, who helped lead the No Boston Olympics initiative against the city’s ultimately unsuccessful bid for the 2024 games.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the April 9, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.