Denver Voters Approve Initiative Requiring Any Future Olympic Bid To Pass A Referendum First

Voters in Denver, Colorado Tuesday overwhelmingly approved Initiative 302 – a new municipal ordinance that gives taxpayers a decisive voice before the city ever pursues a bid to host an Olympic Games.  Just minutes after the polls closed, proponents of the initiative claimed victory.

Colorado voted against Denver hosting the 1976 Olympic Winter Games (Wikipedia Photo)

Colorado voted against Denver hosting the 1976 Olympic Winter Games (Wikipedia Photo)

With most of the votes counted at 9:00 pm local time, Over 79 percent had voted ‘yes’ with almost 21 percent choosing ‘no’.

A public vote will now be required to approve the use of  “public monies, resources, or fiscal guarantees in connection with any future Olympic Games.”

Such a vote would need to occur ahead of any public money spent to prepare for a bid.

The redundant decision comes six months after the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has already slammed the door shut on any possible Olympic bid from the city in the foreseeable future.

Last December the USOC chose Salt Lake City as the nation’s prospective bidder for an unnamed future Winter Olympics, giving the Utah capital the nod over Colorado’s Mile High City.  Reno-Tahoe had also campaigned for the USOC nomination, but dropped out before the final decision.

Salt Lake City had been the heavy favorite over Denver with most venues from the 2002 Games still in operation today and ready to host the world again on demand.  In contrast, Denver’s proposed privately funded project would have required new facilities, and assistance from Salt Lake City or Lake Placid to stage sliding and ski jump events.

The United States will host the Summer Games in Los Angeles in 2028 and the USOC has hinted that it will not rush to host the Winter Games only two years later, but may instead target 2034 when a Winter Games can benefit from a full quadrennial of U.S. sponsorship revenue.

Salt Lake City Chosen As United States’ Next Olympic Winter Games Bid City, Again

All told, it could be decades before the USOC calls upon a new city to propose an Olympic Winter Games bid and Denver shouldn’t expect a knock on the door anytime soon.

Despite the USOC rejection of Denver’s bid last year, the Let Denver Vote group that originally opposed the project as NOlympics, pushed to get the initiative on Tuesday’s ballot and continued to ramp up its campaign to solidify the Yes vote.

“The people of Denver have spoken loudly, clearly, and with near unanimity,” Owen Perkins, spokesperson for the Let Denver Vote Campaign, said in a statement.

“This is an incredible testament to the power of a grassroots movement to triumph over the forces of big money and entrenched special interests.”

Denver is remembered in Olympic circles as the only city to win an Olympic bid only to back out of the deal.  Two years after the city won the host city election over Sion, Switzerland, Denver voters rejected a bond issue to fund the Games by a 3 to 2 margin.  The Olympics were instead held in Innsbruck, Austria.

Since 2013 when Sion, Switzerland voters said ‘yes’ to a 2022 Olympics– eight straight public bid approval votes have failed including referendums held in Calgary, and again in Sion for 2026 bids last year.

On June 24 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will choose from between Italy’s Milan Cortina joint bid and a Swedish proposal from Stockholm and Åre to host the Games in 2026.

About Robert Livingstone

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.