The 1976 Denver Olympics?

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With the Winter Olympics starting this week, it is a good time to revisit the wonderful 1976 Winter Olympics held here in Denver. Oh, wait, they were held in Innsbruck, Austria. But they were supposed to be held in Denver, until the voters in Colorado told the Olympics to “sod off”.

In 197o the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1976 Winter games to Denver. Of course, since the Olympics include a lot of skiing (snowboarding did not exist then), the Olympics would also have to include mountain communities. This was at a time when the resorts and roads in Colorado were all much smaller than what you might see today. And the people in these communities were not too excited about the traffic and environmental damage that would ensue. This was at a time were environmental awareness was just starting to take hold. The first Earth Day was in 1970. Also, it would require the frugal taxpayers of Colorado to contribute to the building that would be required.

The people of the small towns that would be affected, and environmental groups got together to oppose holding the Winter Olympics. Led by a  34 year old state representative named Dick Lamm, an opposition movement comprised of young people concerned about the environment, and residents of the mountain communities formed a group called Citizens for Colorado’s Future (CCF). It lead the opposition to a ballot proposition opposing a ballot issue authorizing $5 million in bonds to be issue to fund the Olympics. The measure failed, with 60% of Colorado voters opposed. The Olympics were moved to Innsbruck, which had hosted the 1964 games.

Talk of hosting the Olympics has not died in Colorado. In the 1970’s Denver was still pretty much a small city all about cows and oil. Today it is a booming metropolis, with an active young population, a diverse economy, and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.  It would be an obvious site to host the Olympics, but with the costs associated with doing so these days, it would be a difficult sale to get voters to pony up the billions that would be necessary.

That doesn’t keep Colorado from being a Winter Wonderland. Come and see. And while your here, tour Denver and Boulder on one of our buses!


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