DENVER — Denver — the only city to be awarded the Olympics, then turn them down — is forming a committee that will look into making a bid for the 2022 Winter Games.
The committee will present findings to Gov. John Hickenlooper and Mayor Michael Hancock, who said Friday the idea of a bid is worth taking seriously.
"But first we're going to ask the right questions and make sure we're satisfied with the answers," Hancock said.
The International Olympic Committee awarded the 1976 Winter Games to Denver, but the city later decided against hosting the event. The games ended up in Innsbruck, Austria. IOC President Jacques Rogge said earlier this year that the IOC carried no grudge against Denver for what it did more than three decades ago.
Back then, a group of civic leaders persuaded voters to say 'no,' to the Olympics, arguing against the massive growth and pollution the games might bring.
Richard Lamm, who led that charge and later became governor, said in an interview two years ago that the local organizing committee of the time was in way over its head. He also said he wasn't sure turning down the Olympics ultimately prevented the sprawl the leaders were trying to avoid.
Of course, both the Olympic experience and the city of Denver have changed drastically since the 1970s. The bid to run those games came in at around $5 million. The Vancouver organizing committee that ran the 2010 Winter Games spent $1.86 billion. Meanwhile, metro Denver's population has grown from about 1.2 million to 2.7 million and the main highway into the mountains, Interstate 70, has become more and more clogged as the decades have passed. It is, by many accounts, in need of the kind of widening project an Olympics could help spur.
Don Elliman, a co-chair of the exploratory committee, said the give-back of the 1976 Olympics "comes up in people's mind as a hangover. But it was damn near 50 years ago. You begin to wonder about that. The Games were very different in those days."
The Reno-Tahoe area is also considering making a run at the 2022 Games, though the U.S. Olympic Committee is not committed to backing an American bid; the USOC wants to resolve a revenue-sharing dispute with the IOC before committing to future bids.
"As we have stated to Denver and other interested cities, the USOC is not focused on bids at this time," USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said.
In a news release, the Denver committee acknowledged that it could not move forward with any Olympic bid without the backing of the USOC.
The 2022 host will be chosen in 2015, though any potential bid cities would have to be committed to a plan by 2013.
Elliman said the committee hopes to present its findings to the mayor and governor in 90 days.
"That may be a little ambitious," Elliman said. "But when the USOC turns on the green light, assuming they do, we want to be in position to know whether or not we want to go for it."
Jeremy Bloom, a former football star at Colorado who went on to compete in the Olympics in freestyle skiing, is among those on the Denver committee.