For 2022 Winter Games, USOC should get a Rocky Mountain high

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Disabled skier Monte Meier winning U.S. title

Monte Meier, a five-time Paralympian, winning a national title at Vail, a ski mecca (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images / December 16, 2013)

4.  Could there be a better site for alpine skiing than Vail - Beaver Creek?  The world championships took place there in 1999 and will again in 2015.

Vail is 100 miles from Denver, but nearly all is on I-70.  Winter driving in the Rockies can be tricky, and snow has been known to close Vail Pass, but thousands make the trip nearly every weekend in the ski season.

Plus, there long has been talk of alternative transportation to Vail.  The 1992 Albertville Olympics brought high-speed rail into the hub of the French Alps.  Could a 2022 Denver Olympics do the same for Colorado, boosting its tourism industry?

5.  Resorts closer to Denver could handle freestyle skiing, slopestyle and snow boarding.  Winter Park (66 miles away) or Copper Mountain (77 miles) are possibilities.  Amtrak's California Zephyr already has a stop near Winter Park; more trains presumably could be added on that line.   Tracks from ski trains that ran into Winter Park until a few years ago still are used by freight traffic.  

6.  Steamboat Springs, which advertises itself as the home of 79 Olympians, is the obvious site for ski jumping and cross-country skiing.  It already has ski jump hills that meet international ski federation standards.  Steamboat's only drawback is being relatively remote -- 160 miles from Denver and about 90 from I-70.

7.  A Winter OIympics would bring just as much benefit to the USOC as a Summer Games.  Certainly, the TV revenue would be less, but the exposure and sponsor interest would probably be the same.

And, weather aside, the Winter Games are so much easier to stage than the Summer Games.  Winter is a dinner party for eight.   Summer is a dinner party for 1,000.

8.  Although IOC voting for host cities is notoriously unpredictable and often swayed by filthy lucre, it seems likely the United States has little chance at a Summer Olympics until 2028 if, as expected, Paris wants to host 2024 to mark the centenary of its last Olympics.

The best Summer Games bet for the USOC would be to wait for 2032 and have Los Angeles bid to mark the centenary of its first Olympics.  That's a long wait.

9.  Even though many IOC members have long memories and a stunning ability to harbor old resentments, few are likely to hold Denver's Olympic history against a 2022 bid.  (Plus, only five current IOC members were members in the 1970s, just two when Denver got and turned back the Games, which went to Innsbruck, Austria.)

Certainly, some will object about the distances involved.  But nearly all recent Winter Games have been split between a city and relatively far-flung mountains.  The 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, will be an exception, but the tradeoff there is mountains so low and so near the sea that weather could have a dramatic negative impact on alpine skiing.

(Salt Lake City actually was the perfect blend of city and nearby mountains, and a group there has shown interest in a 2022 bid.  But it is hard to imagine the IOC returning  just 20 years after the 2002 Winter Games, unless its members really mean what they say about keeping host city costs down, since Salt Lake already has the needed facilities.)

10.  There is no guarantee Colorado residents won't have as mixed feelings about 2022 as they did about 1976, when both money and environmental concerns played into the referendum's defeat.

But in a state where ski tourism has become increasingly important and developed -- and, in this era of plane travel, Colorado is far more accessible to Europeans, South Americans and Asians than it was 35 years ago -- the global exposure from a Winter Games should be significant economically.

Expanded train service should be a selling point to environmentalists.

So why bother with a costly and time-consuming domestic competition?  If Denver wants to bid and can show that a majority of Coloradans support the idea, the USOC need go only 70 miles up the road from its headquarters to find the country's next Olympic host.
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