Having just been awarded the Summer Olympics in LA for 2028, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) is priming a bid for the Winter Olympics in 2026 or 2030.
The US last held a Winter Olympics in 2002 at Salt Lake City, who along with Denver, Reno-Tahoe and other cities have expressed an interest in bidding. Not since Germany, before World War II has one country hosted back-to-back Olympics. Austria, Norway, Switzerland, and Calgary have also expressed interest in hosting the 2026 Winter Games.
Salt Lake City already has the experience and infrastructure in place to support a bid, and a lot of that will be put in place in California for the LA Summer Olympics that could be put to use for the Winter Olympics.
Denver, however, has a troubled history with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In 1970, the IOC awarded Denver the 1976 Winter Games. Two years later, as Japan announced it was spending close to $70 million for its 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo, Colorado voters overwhelmingly (59%) rejected the Games following a heated campaign that suggested the Winter Olympics would stress the state’s finances and environment.
“We were a small state of two and half million people, and the Olympic host is the insurer of last resort for any overruns,” said former three-term Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm. “Back in 1972 and looking at the ’76 Olympics, Montreal was a billion dollars over budget, and [’72 Winter Games host] Sapporo, Japan, was a billion dollars over budget.”
After it was revealed that Russia spent close to $50 billion to host the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, four cities (Oslo, Norway, Lviv, Ukraine, Krakow, Poland, and Stockholm, Sweden) pulled their bids for the 2022 Winter Games. Beijing was eventually the successful bidder.
That $50 billion dwarfs the $14 million projected cost of Denver hosting the 1976 Games when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) first awarded the games in 1970. By the time Colorado voters rejected public financing in 1972, the costs had ballooned to $77 million.
To this day, Denver remains the only location to reject a bid, a decision that may still leave a bitter taste in the mouth of the IOC.
Did Denver make the right decision back in the 70’s? And would you support their bid this time around for the 2026 or 2030 Winter Games?