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No to the 2026 Olympics in Denver…Colorado’s latest PPP Boondoggle-In-The-Making

February 6, 2018

City Park and downtown Denver, viewed from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Or…where’s Gene Amole when we need him?

The discussions among the anointed ones, the participants didn’t gravitate around whether or not Denver should host the Olympics, ie., the positives and negatives. Instead several people in the room, rather crudely focused on what they specialize in: What’s in it for them! 

Hi Folks…

For those of you in Colorado – which is most, but not all – or who have lived here and still care…there is a move afoot – usual developer-big finance stuff – to bring the Olympics to Denver in 2026. A number of people with good political noses have been predicting such plans were in the hopper – I wasn’t one of them – . They based their suspicions on certain developer-contractor patterns unfolding in the city, put it all together and it spelled “OLMYPIC BID”…and they, the friends, were “spot on.” All this was done with what is now become the traditional lack of “transparency. “But as the time to make a formal bid for the Olympics is fast approaching, the Olympic bid organizers have had to come out of the closet, so to speak to win public approval for plans already decided upon behind closed doors.

That’s how it’s done here (and not just here).

But winning public support might take a bit more doing. After all, forty-two years ago, the good citizens of Colorado, spearheaded by an organizer who would use the campaign as a springboard to winning the governorship, rejected a previous Olympic bid. Denver remains the only city in the world to reject such an offer.  Will they/we do it again? Hard to tell. The demographics have changed a lot over the past forty-two years. Will the “new Denver” reject an Olympic bid as the old one did? As no one, not even those who will harvest the financial windfall from the project, can answer that question, thus the need for a carefully constructed public relations campaign.

Interesting that some of the same folks who pushed the D.I.A. expansion are up to their knees in this Olympic bid muck. It is as if Denver is always in need of a project a little bit  – or a lot – more extravagant than the city can afford…and one that leaves the public holding the bill. To sweeten the pot so to speak, a different financial approach has been taken. Whereas the earlier bid required a sizable public funding component, today there is another financial reality. The Olympic Committee itself will pitch in $1 billion. Plus Denver’s organizing committee has committed to raise the additional funds, estimated to be another billion dollars through the new international financial opiates – public, private, partnerships, PPPs. While the details of exactly what this means remain foggy at best, still the point is, that the city of Denver will not feel financial (or other) pain. Still there is another point here – a publicly funded Olympics would require a vote of the people and it appears that this is what the Denver Olympic Organizing Committee wants to avoid at all costs. Private funding avoids that potential pit fall – and public rejection of the project.

Still there is another point here – a publicly funded Olympics would require a vote of the people and it appears that this is what the Denver Olympic Organizing Committee wants to avoid at all costs. Private funding avoids that potential pit fall – and public rejection of the project.

Sounds too good to be true? An Olympics in Denver without public funding? Hmmm.

And then there are the usual promises, which have proven to have been more than a bit shaky in other Olympic bid cases, ie. that the city will actually be better off financially, that it will “environmentally friendly” and that it will produce low-cost housing, and that when it is over Denver’s 10,000 homeless will find shelter, rentals will be sharply reduced, and wages will double.  (just kidding about the last three). But then if you believe that, there is this saying about a bridge in Brooklyn…With so much of the institutional legwork already in place through momza construction projects rammed through the Denver City Council, now it’s time to woe the public, to convince them to vote against their ethics and class interests. And isn’t this what makes America the great nation that is? Where else in the world do people vote against their economic and social interests more consistently than here – and with great passion at that!

How to sugar coat this particular case of financial, social cyanide, that is the question?

The governor, Denver Mayor, the political power brokers and developers have put together a well constructed, and highly controlled effort to win public support for the state’s next developer feeding frenzy and major boondoggle.  a carefully constructed exploratory committee, made up of folk who either already support the idea or who might benefit from it has been put together. Headed up by a local lawyer, Robert Cohen, this committee has already had its first meeting this past Saturday. (The participants were explicitly told by meeting chair Mobley Tyler, not to speak to the press, a sign of just how open – or closed the process will be.)

The discussions among the anointed ones, the participants, didn’t gravitate around whether or not Denver should host the Olympics, ie., the positives and negatives. Instead several people in the room, rather crudely focused on what they specialize in: What’s in it for them! The key to such processes – well-known to anyone living in Denver this past half century is for the project to give the impression of openness and “inclusion” to already long-ago taken decisions. It’s probably the case, that to win public support, a few crumbs might be thrown to the construction unions and a few minority contractors willing to turn a blind eye, disregarding how such projects will disrupt the very communities they claim to represent.

Not exactly an open, transparent process. I am probably against the Olympic bid, as much as anything, because of the process described above. At a time when Denver is facing a housing crisis, when the displacement of middle-income, working class, poor folk, people of color has reached epidemic proportions, this city has some more urgent issues to deal with other than an Olympic bid. Of course I’d rather see countries slugging it out on the ski slopes and swimming pools than with drones, cruise missiles and napalm.

So…how will the good people of Denver respond to this Olympic bid, the plans for which, like so many other major projects in this area, were hatched behind closed doors?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that an open, honest discussion of the pros and cons is in order and from everything I can tell, to date the process is just the opposite – closed, secretive, with those involved cherry picked, and already, a few good people, bought off. This is not a good start.

So…how will the good people of Denver respond to this Olympic bid, the plans for which, like so many other major projects in this area, were hatched behind closed doors?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that an open, honest discussion of the pros and cons is in order and from everything I can tell, to date the process is just the opposite – closed, secretive, with those involved cherry picked, and already, a few good people, bought off. This is not a good start.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jeannie Dunham permalink
    February 8, 2018 8:11 am

    All the reasons Gov. Lamb made at in 1976 (?) for saying no to the olympics are even more valid today.

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