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Passing the torch. The 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City will just have to start without Jack Shea and John A. Love.

That is a tragedy for Shea, the 91-year-old former Olympic gold medalist who was expected to watch his Olympian grandson take the stage in the opening ceremonies but was killed in a head-on car crash this week.

But missing the Utah Olympics will probably be just fine with Love, Colorado's former governor, who in the 1960s, campaigned heavily and unsuccessfully to bring the Olympics to the Centennial State. Love's passing this week at 86 serves as a reminder, a fond old memory, of Colorado as it was only a few decades ago.

That was a time when dogged political partisanship was considered a detriment to this beautiful, great state and the people who love it fiercely.

It was a time when The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad -- not T-Rex -- ruled the tracks. When Vail was the name of a highway engineer, not one of North America's largest ski resorts. When mountain dwellers ranched cows and sheep and hard-rocked for precious metal, not big tips.

It was a time when beef companies were owned by fair and compassionate men like Ken Monfort, who as a boy raised Grand Champion steers -- and not by faceless multinational conglomerates like ConAgra, which secures its profits off the backs of immigrant workers and subjects them to the most dangerous work conditions imaginable.

It was a time when Denver was a cowtown, Aspen was a mountain village and gritty Pueblo was the second largest city in the state. Colorado Springs, population 70,200, was genteel in its conservatism.

It was a time when men -- almost all of them men -- shook hands on an important deal and it stuck; when, for politicians like Love, a rejuvenating weekend hunting for quail was as pressing as a national oil crisis; when guns were for hunting, not a solution to road rage.

It was a time when a Republican from Colorado Springs would, wearing a wide easy grin, happily ride a donkey to a public event. It was the last time this city produced a politician that could win a statewide election campaign.

It was a time that few Coloradans can remember.

Love was first elected governor in 1962. There were 878,000 registered voters in all of Colorado. Now, there are more registered Republicans (over a million) than that alone, plus near-equal numbers of Democrats and unaffiliated voters.

A former president of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and a lawyer, Love was instrumental in bringing the Air Force Academy here. When he became governor, he ran the state for 12 years. After his terms ended, President Richard Nixon appointed Love the nation's first energy czar. The job didn't last. Early in the Arab oil embargo of 1973, Love took off for a weekend of quail hunting. Washington flipped out. Love got fired.

Always the moderate, Love later became, along with former Democratic Gov. Richard Lamm, an honorary chairman of SAFE Colorado, the group that sponsored the 2000 successful statewide amendment to close the gun-show loophole.

Colorado Springs just doesn't make 'em like it used to.

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We were recently notified that a man named Ralph Shnelvar is running on the Libertarian ticket for governor.

Shnelvar? Governor Shnelvar?

Now he is probably a perfectly nice man and all, with perfectly interesting ideas. But that name! It sounds like something that you do to your car -- "Gotta get that shnelvar fixed." Or a complicated little gadget used for technical rock climbing -- "Don't forget to pack in your pitons, caribiners and schnelvars." Or it might be a deep space astrological event -- "Folks, we are experiencing a shnelvar shower."

When Colorado Gov. Roy Romer was challenged in his last term by Republican Bruce Benson, he distributed a videotape chronicling his life and accomplishments. Playing up his small-town roots, he titled the video, "Romer: Man from Holly."

We can only hope that Mr. Shnelvar will produce a similar documentary. And there can only be one name for it: "Shnelvar: Man from Boulder."

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War, it appears, may result in skyrocketed popular opinion polls but does not a good speller make. Consider the following statement recently issued by President George W. Bush praising Colorado's two Republican U.S. Senators: "I commend Senators Wayne Allerd and Ben Nighthorse Campbell for working with me to craft a bipartisan stimulus plan to get our economy moving again and provide much needed assistance to dislocated workers."

We're sure "Allerd," er, Allard, who faces what promises to be a tough reelection battle this year, really appreciated the commendation from his close friend the prez.

-- degette@csindy.com

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