IOC says 1976 giveback wouldn't hurt Denver's play for 2022 Winter Olympics

Oct 14 2011 - 5:11pm

IOC says 1976 giveback wouldn't hurt Denver's play for 2022 Winter Olympics

By Brian Gomez

The Gazette

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- If the U.S. Olympic Committee submits a bid for the 2022 Winter Games with Denver as a candidate, the black eye of the Mile High City once returning the Olympics won't play a factor with International Olympic Committee voters, according to the leader of the IOC.

"There would definitely be no grudge for the fact that Denver abandoned the race," IOC president Jacques Rogge said this week at The Broadmoor hotel before the end of the IOC international athletes' forum, a biennial gathering staged in the U.S. for the first time.

The Colorado Springs-based USOC still hasn't determined whether it will enter the fray for 2022, with Bozeman, Mont., Reno/Lake Tahoe, Nev., and Salt Lake City also in the mix, 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. Bids for 2022 are due in 2013, with the IOC scheduled to pick the winner in 2015.

Denver is the only city to give back the Olympics. The IOC relocated the 1976 Winter Games to Innsbruck, Austria, in 1973 after outcries from Colorado taxpayers over rising costs and environmental effects. It hasn't reappeared on the Olympic ballot, and since the United States hosted four Olympics -- two winter and two summer -- from 1980 to 2002, it has lost its past two Olympic bids, faltering with New York for 2012 and with Chicago for 2016.

At least 14 other nations have shown interest in 2022, with the strongest contenders Barcelona, Spain; Berne, Switzerland; Munich; Oslo, Norway; and Ostersund, Sweden. About Denver, Rogge said, "The geography is not an issue. Climate is not an issue. Altitude is not an issue. The expertise of the people is not an issue." Of the 113 IOC members, only one partook in the 1970 vote in which Denver beat Sion, Switzerland. "It's another generation," Rogge said.

"We always love to see good bids for any Games, at any place, at any time," said Rogge, traveling to the Springs for the second time since he became IOC president in 2001. "If a bid comes for 2022 for the winter, we would be glad to have a solid bid coming from the United States. If the USOC considers that they have to wait until 2024 for the summer, fine. We know that the bids coming from the United States will be strong bids."

Before the USOC tries for the Olympics, it has vowed to resolve a long-standing revenue-sharing dispute with the IOC, stemming from the USOC receiving 12.75 percent of U.S. TV rights fees and 20 percent of worldwide marketing profits -- almost $300 million from 2005 to 2008 and a projected $450 million from 2009 to 2012. IOC members have argued since the USOC makes more than other nations, it doesn't need as big a piece of the pie.

USOC chief executive officer Scott Blackmun had brief talks this week with IOC director general Christophe De Kepper, of Belgium, and Rogge, also of Belgium, and reported that the USOC and the IOC are "edging toward a solution. Still, some things have to be finalized and refined and studied. Without giving a deadline, I think we are progressing."

Rogge said it's not "absolutely necessary" for the USOC to reach a new agreement with the IOC before shooting for the Olympics, however, he cautioned that "it would help an American bid." Just as vital is the USOC's increased level of international engagement -- Blackmun and USOC chairman Larry Probst have dotted the map, for bilateral pacts with Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Japan, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

"This is something that's important," Rogge said. "If you are powerful, if you are strong, you have to be generous. The USOC is generous." He added the USOC is "fulfilling their core mission," with Blackmun and Probst acting "very competent. I think they are good leaders. They are putting their mark on the USOC, and they're doing a very good job."

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