A group opposing any potential bid by Denver to host the 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games is pushing to hold a public vote over plans.
Under the “NOlympics” banner, a brand that has been used by Olympic bid opponents around the world, the group has launched an online petition and reportedly needs 4,726 signatures from registered Denver voters to get the the question on a November election ballot.
The measure is to be reviewed by a City Council attorney Tuesday.
An ordinance proposed by NOlympics asks that a majority of voters approve plans to host an Olympic Games before any city resources are allocated to, or financial guarantees made by the city “in connection with hosting Olympic Games in Denver.”
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) in February submitted a letter of interest to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) indicating intention to bid for the 2030 Winter Games. A vote to site those Games isn’t scheduled until 2023 but there is speculation that a dual-allocation of both the 2026 and 2030 Games could occur, meaning the 2030 edition could be awarded as early as September 2019.
Cities from seven nations are currently battling to host the 2026 Winter Games, but the United States refrained from entering that race to focus instead on organizing the 2028 Summer Games to be held in Los Angeles.
Denver hasn’t confirmed its intentions to bid for the Games but elected officials may make a decision by July after the Denver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Exploratory Committee files a report. But even if the Colorado capital decides to move forward it would have to be nominated by the USOC from among other currently interested cities Reno-Tahoe and the heavily favored 2002 Games hosts Salt Lake City.
According to the wording of the measure, a vote would only be forced if the Games are not fully privately funded. The Committee has been proposing private funding for the estimated USD $1.5 to 2 billion Games budget but Chairman of the Exploratory Committee Rob Cohen admits that some public resources may still be required, including the use of public facilities and security.
Opposition group leaders remain skeptical of the private plans, and according to the Denver Post worded the document to “call their bluff.”
“If it’s a truly private initiative — which we know it’s not — then let’s codify that,” NOlympics co-Chair Kyle Zeppelin said.
Denver famously won a bid to host the 1976 Winter Games but later backed out when funding for the Games was defeated in a state-wide vote. The Games instead went to Innsbruck.
Last year it was Innsbruck voters who turned down the chance to bid for the 2026 Winter Games, paving the way for another Austrian bid – Graz – to enter the race instead. A petition is underway to force a vote that could topple the bid from that city too.
Sion in Switzerland will face a Canton-wide plebiscite over its 2026 bid on June 10 amid poor public support polling, and Calgary will hold a city-wide plebiscite later this year to determine the fate of the Canadian bid, if City Council decides to move it forward when it votes in June.
Sapporo in Japan is also seeking public opinion in a survey to determine if its project should continue.
Sapporo could instead bid for the 2030 Games, and along with earlier interest from Lillehammer for those same Games – a U.S. bid could find competition on the international stage.