Denver asks who would benefit from hosting Winter Olympics

The Sharing the Gold Advisory group will ask how the community could benefit or be hurt by the Olympics.

staff photo
Marco Schwarz (right) of Austria competes as Martin Fjeldberg of Norway reacts during the parallel team final of alpine skiing event at the Innsbruck 2012 Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, Jan 17, 2012. (Courtesy of Li Ming/Xinhua/IOC)

Marco Schwarz (right) of Austria competes as Martin Fjeldberg of Norway reacts during the parallel team final of alpine skiing event at the Innsbruck 2012 Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, Jan 17, 2012. (Courtesy of Li Ming/Xinhua/IOC)

About 60 people from various nonprofits, business organizations and companies were deputized Saturday to go and seek feedback on how their neighbors and colleagues feel about hosting the Winter Olympics in Denver.

While others consider whether Denver can and should bring the Olympics, the Sharing the Gold Advisory group will be asking how the community could benefit or be hurt by the 17-day international event. The group’s evaluation will be included in a final report on whether Denver should go after the 2026 or 2030 games.

In all, the Sharing the Gold Advisory group is scheduled to meet three times before giving recommendations to the Denver Winter Games Exploratory Committee. The meeting Saturday morning was used as an opportunity to learn more about the Olympic bidding process and the committee’s scope.

The founder of The Equity Project, Nita Mosby Tyler, asked the advisory group to use the information to go and talk about the potential vision, legacy and risk and challenges for the games.

“Hypothetically, if we were to bid, win or host the Olympics, what would the community’s vision of a successful event be?” Mosby Tyler said. “Legacy is if we were to win a bid, once all the cameras and the athletes and hoopla are gone, what’s left behind? What’s left behind in the community to enjoy?”

The director of the NEWSED Community Development Corp., Andrea Barela, said she’d want the games to benefit the businesses and the broader community.

“What you have here is a lot of community people who are skeptical about how dollars will trick down or disseminate into our neighborhoods that really need it. Also, it’s Denver, and we’re already sort of overwhelmed with the number of people coming here anyway and kind of gun shy,” Barela said.

Barela, who also serves on the Santa Fe Business Improvement District, said she’s not sure people, especially from minority or low-income, backgrounds are really excited about the games.

“Is there a lot of care around this? Probably not at heart. We’re more concerned about the impact,” she said.

The chair of the Denver Winter Games Exploratory Committee, Robert Cohen, told the group he knows some people feel that the city is going to put forth a bid and the community engagement process is only procedural.

“If there is anybody who thinks this is merely us checking a box or trying to have a process to back up decisions that have already been made, I can assure you that’s not the case,” Cohen said. “I hope you believe what we’re trying to do here is really make decisions that are in the best interest of our entire community. And it’s a tough decision there are a lot of aspects and a lot of things to take into consideration and to think about.”

The Denver Winter Games Exploratory Committee recently unveiled an online survey and “Explore the Games” website this week to let residents weigh in. Online meetings are planned for Feb. 8 and Feb. 24. And the “Sharing the Gold” advisory group is expected to meet again Feb. 15 and March 3. A similar group is meeting with residents from Summit and Eagle counties. Colorado Springs and Fort Collins could also be impacted by the games.

The exploratory committee could deliver its recommendation about going after the games as early as March, Cohen said. Then Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock have to decide whether to set up a committee to create a bid. And even if a bid is put forth, the United States Olympic Committee would need to nominate the Mile High City and that nomination, along with other counties’, would go to the International Olympic Committee for review.

 

Cohen said Denver is well suited for the games which could be an opportunity to get creative about turning Olympic Villages into affordable housing and solving transportation issues.

The possibility of the Olympics being used to address Denver’s larger issues encouraged Vivian Stovall, a member of the advisory group representing elderly people and those who use wheelchairs or struggle with mobility.

“I am wanting to know the meat and potatoes of how things are being planned,” Stovall said. “It would be a wonderful thing just to have that type of event here. There could be some positive things that happen if it improves and shrinks the gaps we have on transportation as well as housing and other issues.”

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Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

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