Once upon a time, actually through much of the 1980s, Colorado Springs claimed a noteworthy — though unwieldy — title.
It was "Amateur sports capital of the United States," meaningful because Indianapolis coveted the same status and wanted the U.S. Olympic Committee to move its headquarters there. In fact, several governing bodies (most notably track and field, gymnastics, diving and synchronized swimming) have their offices in that city, which has hosted many national and world championships, even the Pan American Games.
But back then, the USOC's loyalty to the Springs was unwavering — our city stepped in during tough times for the organization. Led by The Broadmoor's William Thayer Tutt and El Pomar Foundation's Bill Hybl, Colorado Springs enticed the USOC to move, opening the Olympic Training Center in 1977 and relocating Olympic House from New York the next summer.
Undaunted, Indianapolis lured the NCAA to move its base there from Overland Park, Kan. Eventually the competition faded, though one still finds online references to Indianapolis as "Amateur sports capital of the world."
Recently, the USOC gave Colorado Springs some use of its logo and name in the agreement to move its offices downtown and remain another 30 years. But nothing has stuck.
Mike Moran, USOC media chief and spokesman for nearly a quarter-century (1978-2002), continues as the city's top vocal ambassador in the sports world. Along the way, he and I have pushed for a more specific title.
America's Olympic City. Easy to understand, hard for anyone to challenge.
"I do think it's time that we qualify to call ourselves America's Olympic City," Moran says, "if the USOC doesn't object to the terminology and it is in accordance with agreed-upon standards between the city and the USOC."
This didn't just pop up lately. Here's an excerpt from the Between the Lines column of Oct. 11, 2007:
"It's vitally important for all of Colorado Springs — not just the city government — to pull together now like never before. The goal is simple: Deliver a vision and a strategy that will clearly define us as America's Olympic City for generations to come. Then, turn that vision into reality."
Moran has used the term much more, including as emcee at public events, and says he has "not received any pushback from the USOC. But there would be room for abuse by commercial entities if it were not limited to promotional purposes for the city itself."
The idea is picking up momentum. There's even a growing Facebook page backing the effort. But will it go anywhere? It certainly can.
Patrick Sandusky, now the USOC spokesman and head of communications, says the door is open. Wide open.
"The city does have the rights to the rings, imagery and/or designated phrases, with our approval," Sandusky says. "We would welcome and embrace working with them on something like that, just as our marketing department already has worked with them in various ways. It'll certainly be fine if they want to take it further."
Why not? We're hearing more about quiet progress toward an ambitious Olympic Hall of Fame museum downtown, reviving the idea that advanced as far as groundbreaking in 1986 before economic troubles intervened. The concept still makes sense, as does the idea here ("Finding a new role model," June 9, 2011) to put life-size statues of Olympic heroes on street corners downtown.
But it all starts with America's Olympic City. Needless to say, it has to be handled delicately and positively. As Moran adds, "What can't take place is wholesale use of the term by businesses wanting to benefit from the terminology with no relationship to the USOC or the city."
So if Mayor Steve Bach likes the idea, and USOC marketing folks as well as CEO Scott Blackmun have no issues, this could happen soon.
"The time, if there ever is to be one, is now," says Moran. "We have a new era here between the city and the USOC that is just beginning, and the permission to call ourselves America's Olympic City would be a great step. There's economic impact to be gained, reputation to be enhanced, and pride on the part of our residents to be unleashed."
Well said, Mike and Patrick. Now, let's hope for the best.