A for Athlete


  • City in Colorado


Denver voters told the International Olympic Committee, no thanks. Denver voters spoke, rejecting the public funding for the Olympics in 1972. The IOC had awarded the 1976 Winter Games to Denver at a cost of $5 million.

A state rep, Richard Lamm, some civic leaders and editorials from the Rocky Mountain News, helped to swap public opion. "The organizing committee here was in way over their heads," said Lamm, who rode that populist crusade into the governor's office two years later. "They overestimated the benefits and underestimated the costs. Colorado was generally persuaded that they didn't have an adequate grasp on the figures and Colorado was very much liable to have to fund dramatic cost overruns."

  • Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London organizing committee, visited Denver in March 2009 for meetings to reassure the IOC leaders that the 2012 Games are still on track despite the economic downturn.

"I don't need to tell anyone in that room that these are extraordinary times," Coe told The Associated Press on Monday. "Not since the 1970s has a winter or summer games been delivered under such a sudden change in economic circumstances."

  • Tokyo is shooting for $4.4 billion.
  • Rio de Janeiro's number is $14.4 billion but includes things the others do not, such as venue construction and security.

London's number for venues, infrastructure and regeneration is at $13.6 billion. That doesn't include the operating budget of $2.9 billion. The total -- $16.5 billion -- is more comparable to the Rio proposal for 2016 than the others. No matter how you look at it, it's still more than double the estimate when the British first proposed hosting the games.

The 2012 Olympics in Vancouver has an operating budget of $1.63 billion. That's about $104 million over the figure projected in 2007. The figure rises to more than $2 billion when venue construction is included. The government, meanwhile, has stepped in with interim financing to complete the athletes village after the original financier backed out.

"Projections for events like that very seldom hold true, whether it's a private activity or a public activity," said Denver's former three-term mayor, Wellington Webb, who also opposed those 1976 Olympics. "Anyone who has ever done construction on a house knows the bid does not last. That's what you call the foundation bid. The only thing you guarantee in there is the frame construction and the basement."

Webb was the mayor who inherited the construction of Denver International Airport, which opened in 1994 -- 16 months late and with a price tag of $4.8 billion, about $2 billion over budget.

Often, the cost of remodeling or rebuilding a city's airport is the kind of thing that's folded into an Olympic budget.

"The fact that Athens and Beijing built new airports, first of all, I think are great things for the cities, but I don't think those are the costs of the Olympics," said Pat Ryan, chairman of the Chicago 2016 bid. "I don't think the ring roads in Athens are the cost of the Olympics. I mean, they modernized their city, which was a good thing, and I think generally the people of Athens are happy about that."

Those projects, however, produced a budget that has been estimated at anywhere from $10.9 billion to $16.9 billion. It stuck Athens with debt that's expected to extend for generations. Because of that, many believe the IOC will stay out of the city-rebuilding mode in the future.

Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid are all playing to that theme, saying much of their Olympic infrastructure is already there.

Even without the publicity of the Olympics, Colorado has grown from 2.3 million to 4.8 million over the past 40 years, important enough in the minds of Democrats to bring their 2008 national convention to the hub of the Intermountain West.

Interstate 70, the main path into the mountain ski resorts, is a bumper-to-bumper nightmare on many Sunday evenings in the winter -- a stark contrast to the wide-open highway that runs between Salt Lake City, the 2002 Olympics host, and its mountain resorts.

The people at the Metro Denver Sports Commission are hoping the Mile High City will stick in the memories of the many Olympic types who are here for the biggest get-together of its kind on American soil since 2002.

Very much on the minds of the hosts this week: A possible bid to bring the Winter Olympics to Denver sometime in the next decade.