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Denver 2022? Not so fast

Between the Lines



VANCOUVER — Practically every day throughout the past two weeks, somebody has brought it up. They see a large Western metropolis staging the 2010 Winter Olympics, ice events in the city and snow sports up in the nearby mountains, all with huge crowds, and they wonder.

Why not bring this version of the Winter Games, with its big-city atmosphere and bigger TV ratings, back to America as soon as possible? More specifically, why not to Denver and Colorado, maybe in 2022?

Hockey, and perhaps figure skating, would be at the Pepsi Center. Maybe the short-track speedskating and the early rounds of women's hockey could be at the University of Denver's Magness Arena, or, who knows, possibly some at the Colorado Springs World Arena.

As for skiing, bobsled-luge-skeleton, Nordic and the other snow events, Vail might be a mountain headquarters, with events and facilities spreading out to Copper Mountain, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge. One could have the "sliding center," another could take ski jumping, and they'd all compete to see which would host the Alpine skiing.

As for the opening and closing ceremonies, it might be worth putting a retractable roof on Invesco Field. And if they're still doing the separate medal ceremonies, those could be on Denver's downtown 16th Street Mall.

It all sounds so perfect. Just don't count on it happening any time soon.

Denver has two big strikes against it. One, the U.S. Olympic Committee has no interest in pursuing a bid campaign for any upcoming Winter (or Summer) Games right now, after losing with New York for 2012 (to London) and with Chicago for 2016 (to Rio de Janeiro).

Those defeats were embarrassing and costly, monetarily for the cities and politically for the USOC. The votes also sent a clear message that the International Olympic Committee doesn't think so highly of the United States right now.

Scott Blackmun, in just his second month as the USOC's new chief executive officer, made it clear to the Independent the other day that he has no interest in pushing the matter, given the current climate.

"We are not going to pursue another bid unless, or until, we know that the IOC wants us to," Blackmun said. "It's too expensive, and we're simply not going to ask a city to spend millions unless we know we have a good chance."

The other negative factors have nothing to do with money or Denver's obvious attributes. For one thing, other cities would be interested as well, most notably Reno-Lake Tahoe. There's also been talk in media circles around Vancouver of possible interest from Alaska. (No word on whether Sarah Palin would be involved.)

Also, when it comes to Denver, nobody knows for sure if enough time has passed since 1976, or actually 1972. That seems like a long time ago, but the older generation of IOC leaders still remembers when Denver won the 1976 Winter Games — and then gave them back in 1972 by a statewide vote. At that time, the issue was largely environmental, with the anti-Olympics effort opposed to building a new ski resort for the Games.

The state said no to the Olympics, and yet that resort still became reality, as Beaver Creek. It left a bitter taste with the IOC that might not have subsided, even nearly four decades later.

All that said, it should be obvious to the global community that Denver would be perfect for the Winter Games, and the Olympic TV ratings have been higher in Denver than any other American city. There's also time to see what happens the next few years, as USOC president Larry Probst and Blackmun try to mend fences with the IOC on a variety of issues, including how TV revenues are divided.

The Russian city of Sochi has 2014, and 2018 looks like a choice between France and Germany, with Munich and its not-so-far-away mountains possibly following the Vancouver blueprint.

And 2022 could go to South Korea, which already has tried multiple times. That bid process would start in 2013, which is coming up fast.

So in other words, let's not talk about a roof for Invesco Field just yet.

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