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November 8, 1972: Colorado spurns Olympics

Published February 16, 2009 at 7:42 p.m.

Front page from November 8, 1972

Front page from November 8, 1972

The 1972 election in Colorado sent shock waves from Denver across the country, and around the world.

The state helped elect Richard Nixon as the 37th president.

It launched the political career of Rep. Patricia Schroeder.

It swept Floyd Haskell, a former Republican, into the U.S. Senate as a Democrat.

It installed Dale Tooley as the city's district attorney.

It killed the state's long-sought hosting of the 1976 Winter Olympics.

And it thrust State Rep. Richard Lamm, who would go on to become a three-term governor, onto the national stage as the man who drove a ski pole through the heart of the Olympics.

Inside the election edition of Nov. 8, 1972, the Olympics headline was simple and direct:

Colorado voters reject

1976 Winter Olympics

"Colorado voters sent the 1976 Winter Olympics in search of a new home Tuesday,"

wrote Richard O'Reilly, the reporter who had covered the business and politics of Denver's bid from the start.

"Anti-Olympics forces viewed the vote as the beginning of a new era in which politicians will be more attuned to limiting population growth and reordering priorities for spending tax funds.

"Olympic proponents saw the vote as a misguided effort which will have serious future repercussions for the state."

Only two years before, when Denver beat out Sion, Switzerland, for the Games, the Rocky's page 1 banner headline on May 13, 1970, captured the excitement:

Jubilant Denver is winner in

1976 bid for winter Olympics

The defeat of the Games really was a referendum on growth and spending in Colorado. A Rocky editorial the next day summed up reaction:

"We believed in the Olympics for Colorado and endorsed it from the start, although raising serious questions about the manner in which planning was being carried out. Given the size of the vote against further Olympic spending, we are grateful this matter was brought before the people. They have spoken emphatically, we abide by their decision and consider the Olympic debate settled."

Nevertheless, Beaver Creek resort, the proposed site for the alpine events, was still built, and the I-70 corridor is choked today beyond anyone's dire predictions in 1972.

To this day, committees form to resurrect Denver as a site for future Olympics. Without fail, echoes of the state's decision in '72 can be heard.

"I think with this we'll just have to say we won't have the 1976 Winter Olympics," Mayor William H. McNichols Jr. said after the election. "The IOC (International Olympic Committee) will give them to someone else. In my opinion, they will never come to this country. After you go and get it, and then have a country reject it, it would be very surprising to me if they ever put them back in the United States."

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