COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Nearly 40 years ago, Denver gave away the Olympic rings. Now, it wants them back.
The U.S. Olympic Committee has had preliminary talks with Denver about the chance of a bid for the 2022 Winter Games, USOC chief executive officer Scott Blackmun revealed Friday after his keynote address during the U.S. Olympic Assembly at the Antlers Hilton.
It's still undetermined whether the Colorado Springs-based USOC will enter the fray for 2022, with Reno/Lake Tahoe, Nev., Salt Lake City and Bozeman, Mont., also weighing bids, or throw its weight behind a bid for the 2024 Summer Games, in which possibilities are Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia and Tulsa, Okla.
If the USOC tries for 2022, bid books outlining a city's plan for the Games -- that would detail whether Olympic competition and practice venues are targeted for the Springs -- would be due to the USOC in 2013, when the USOC also would offer an applicant city to the International Olympic Committee. The IOC will announce its short list in 2014 and pick the 2022 Olympic host in 2015 -- at least 15 other nations have shown interest, the strongest contenders including Barcelona, Spain; Berne, Switzerland; Munich; Oslo, Norway; and Ostersund, Sweden.
"I think 20 years is long enough," Blackmun said in reference to the U.S. last hosting the Olympics in 2002 in Salt Lake City. He added that "it's important that we host the Games in the United States as a way to keep Americans connected to the team. ... I don't think there are limitations on our ability to participate in a 2022 bid right now."
Bid leaders from Denver and Reno/Lake Tahoe (the Denver effort is headed by the Metro Denver Sports Commission, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock have discussed a 2022 bid) were in town for the Olympic Assembly, the USOC's annual gathering of 400 attendees.
However, the USOC, humbled in New York's bid for the 2012 Summer Games that went to London and in Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Games that went to Rio de Janeiro, hasn't figured out when it will submit its next Olympic proposal, attempting to overhaul a revenue-sharing pact with the IOC. It didn't bid for the 2018 Winter Games that went to Pyeongchang, South Korea, and it passed on the deadline for the 2020 Summer Games.
"We haven't opened up any kind of (domestic) process," Blackmun said. "If we decide to bid on 2022, we will be in touch with the cities that have approached us, and we'll create some kind of process so that people who might be interested in bidding will let us know. ... This is a long-term proposition. Even if you win the Games in your first bid, it's still a long-term proposition because it's seven years until that comes to fruition."
Denver is the only city to return the Olympics, when the IOC relocated the 1976 Winter Games to Innsbruck, Austria, in 1973 after objections from Colorado taxpayers over rising costs and environmental effects. The closest Nevada has come to the Olympics was the 1960 Squaw Valley Games, which were held on the California side of Lake Tahoe.
Regarding an Olympic bid, USOC chairman Larry Probst said, "It's premature to answer those questions." Blackmun said the USOC has informed Denver and Reno/Lake Tahoe, "We appreciate their interest, but until we resolve our revenue-sharing discussions with the IOC, we don't think it's appropriate for us to be focusing on putting together a bid."