DENVER — The former Colorado governor behind Denver’s historic snubbing of the Olympics and the man who spearheaded the effort to stop Boston from hosting the Olympics think Colorado voters should be able to weigh in on whether Denver should host the Winter Games.
Speaking at a community forum on Denver’s consideration of a possible 2030 bid on Saturday, former Gov. Dick Lamm said democracies make up their minds by voting and said lawmakers should put a referendum on the ballot this fall.
“Let’s vote,” Lamm, part of a newly formed Olympic opposition group, told the crowd of about 200.
In 1972, Lamm was a state lawmaker who helped lead a campaign to convince voters to reject funding for the 1976 Winter Games in Denver, making it the only city to ever walk away from a successful bid. Besides cost concerns, Lamm said Colorado now would also have to worry about having enough snow to host the games because of climate change.
No Boston Olympics co-chair Chris Dempsey also said Colorado voters should have a referendum, adding the International Olympic Committee “hates them.”
Dempsey called the Olympic bidding process the “world’s most expensive auction” and said that the promises that cities make to win Olympics usually can’t stand up to democratic scrutiny. He warned attendees that hosting the Olympics could mean giving up one lane of Interstate 70 — Colorado’s often crowded highway to the mountains — to Olympic officials, including royal members of the IOC, and said it would be impossible to avoid having taxpayers be responsible for budget overruns despite the promises to the contrary.
“Bid books are the greatest fiction ever written,” Dempsey said.
Steve McConahey, a member of a committee convened by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock to study whether Denver should pursue an Olympic bid, said the committee will not include any taxpayer subsidies in its budget plans and that insurance would cover any unexpected expenses.
While Olympic exploratory chairman Rob Cohen said that the IOC recently told Scion, Switzerland, that it would look at allowing insurance to cover a limited amount of cost overruns, Dempsey said such insurance coverage does not exist.
The Olympic exploratory committee is expected to make a recommendation to Hancock and Gov. John Hickenlooper on whether to pursue an Olympic bid in early May. Committee chair Rob Cohen told the audience that the committee will discuss whether to ask for a vote as part of its deliberations.
After the forum, Lamm said there are no talks underway to introduce a referendum and that it would be better if the committee and Olympic opponents jointly ask state lawmakers for one.
However, state lawmakers finish up their session around the same time that the Olympic committee will be making its recommendation, making it unlikely there would be enough time for lawmakers to agree to pursue a possible joint request. Olympic opponents still have the option to collect signatures to put their own measure on the ballot.