USOC announces 2026 Winters Olympics bid unlikely; Denver still exploring future years

Denver will continue exploring whether the city should and could host the Olympics.

staff photo
Carl DeTemple, president of the Olympic Organizing Commitee for the 1976 winter games. (Rocky Mountain News/Denver Public Library/RMN-051-6005)

Carl DeTemple (right), president of the Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1976 winter games. (Rocky Mountain News/Denver Public Library/RMN-051-6005)

Denver will continue exploring whether the city should and could host the Olympics even though the U.S. Olympic Committee chairman said Friday it could be at least a dozen years before the Winter Games return to American soil.

USOC Chairman Larry Probst said Friday it’s unlikely the U.S. will put forth a bid for the 2026 Winter Games, preferring instead to focus on the 2028 Summer Games heading to Los Angeles. The committee could later put forward a proposal to bring the 2030 games to Denver, Salt Lake City or Reno, Nevada.

Putting forward a 2026 bid “would make things extremely complicated from a financial standpoint with Los Angeles,” the Associated Press reports Probst saying.

When a U.S. city wins the right to host, the USOC has to rework all its marketing arrangements so the city will be the prime beneficiary of the deals. It’s complex, and tearing up the deal with Los Angeles to add a 2026 host into the mix is considered unworkable.

The USOC has always preferred the idea of 2030, but was keeping doors open for 2026 in case of a repeat of the most recent Summer Games process. The International Olympic Committee was supposed to award only the 2024 Olympics last September. But after a handful of bids cratered and only two remained — Paris and Los Angeles — the IOC took the unprecedented step of awarding both 2024 and 2028.

If the IOC indicates it wants a similar process with 2026 and 2030, Probst said “we are prepared to participate in those discussions.”

Earlier this week, Salt Lake City said it would try to become the American candidate for a 2030 bid. It would be the favorite in a contest that could also include Denver and Reno, Nevada.

Another complicating factor with 2026 is that the United States could be preparing to host a World Cup. The U.S., Canada and Mexico are involved in a joint bid for 2026, to be awarded in June.

As of right now, the Denver Winter Games Exploratory Committee is moving forward as planned, said Ramonna Robinson, a spokeswoman for the group.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, along with Gov. John Hickenlooper, announced the Denver Winter Games Exploratory Committee in December 2017. The group tasked with weighing the pros and cons of bringing the Olympics to Colorado plans to put forward a recommendation as early as March so Hancock and Hickenlooper could decide whether to pursue a bid.

“Denver and Colorado’s exploratory process has been proceeding under a compressed timeline in order to be prepared if the U.S. Olympic Committee decided to pursue a bid for the 2026 Winter Games,” Robinson said in  a statement.

“The exploratory committee will continue its dialogue with the USOC and IOC to determine relevant timelines and adjust accordingly, as necessary,” she said.

The exploratory committee’s work can be used if Denver and Colorado decide to pursue a bid for a future Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, regardless of whether that is in 2026, 2030 or 2034.

Associated Press reporter Eddie Pells contributed to this report.

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