USOC Taps Salt Lake City To Vie For 2030 Winter Olympics, Eliminating Denver

<p>Rick Bowmer/AP Photo</p>
<p>This Friday, April 22, 2016, photo, shows the skyline of Salt Lake City.</p>
Photo: Salt Lake City Skyline
This Friday, April 22, 2016, photo, shows the skyline of Salt Lake City.

The U.S. Olympic Committee has nominated Salt Lake City to be the host city of the 2030 Winter Olympics, eliminating Denver from the process.

Salt Lake City was the presumed favorite for the nomination.

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) announced their choice for the 2030 host city on Friday.

Denver and Salt Lake City were two of the few true competitors for the title. Most cities have been ambivalent at best in their efforts (or lack thereof) to woo the upcoming Winter Olympics. The Reno-Tahoe area declined an invitation to bid for the host city title.

The Denver Sports Commission said in a statement the decision was "disappointing."

"It is disheartening that one of the world’s great winter sports destinations will not have the opportunity to partner with the USOC on a future bid, especially given that more than 60 percent of Colorado voters favor us hosting the Winter Games," the commission stated. "Yet our community is better for having gone through this process as we continue to look forward and pursue opportunities to showcase our great city and state on the world stage."

Denver has a messy history with the Olympic committee.

Four decades ago, the Mile High City won the bid to host the 1976 Winter Olympics. Denver promised plenty of snow, easy access to the mountains, bountiful hotel rooms and other alluring features.

The rosy plan didn’t hold up for long. As costs ballooned and concerns over the environmental impact arose, Denver became the only city ever to withdraw from hosting the games.

But in spring 2018, the city decided to patch up its relationship with the USOC and try again. Denver now has a booming economy, light rail and more stadiums to offer. But rapid population growth also means that I-70 is even more gridlocked, and in need of expansion before a Winter Olympics.

Even as the Denver exploratory committee brainstormed ways to privately fund the games and limit taxpayer cost as much as possible, advocates resisted the idea of any money going toward the Olympics instead of affordable housing projects or transportation improvements.

Outgoing Gov. John Hickenlooper supported the idea of bidding for the Winter Olympics.

"I think I see the benefits more clearly than I see the downsides,” Hickenlooper said in a February interview with Colorado Matters.

In June, the exploratory committee issued a 231-page report that concluded Denver was capable of making a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics, pending voter approval.

“We are interested and we have a model, a financing model, that one, does not require direct investment of the taxpayer, and two, we want to go to the people of Colorado to affirm our interest in pursuing the Olympics,” Mayor Michael Hancock said at the time.

Salt Lake City previously hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002.

The International Olympic Committee will now decide whether Salt Lake City or another candidate will be the host city in 2023.