The people of Denver voted in 1972 against the public funding of the Olympic Games despite the fact that the city had accepted the bid in 1970. At that time, it was the only US state to deny the Olympics. Now, nearly 50 years later, the people of Denver are having another moment of decision making about the major event. Ordinance 302 — included on the Denver runoff ballot due June 4 — asks voters to decide whether the use of public funds toward any future Olympic Games must be voted upon and approved with a majority before allocation.
This comes on the heels of the Winter Games Exploratory Committee pushing Denver to pursue a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics last year. The committee reportedly connected with 30,000 Coloradans across the state before making that decision — and then they offered a few recommendations. The first recommendation was that a statewide vote should decide whether or not to put public resources toward the event. Second, the committee recommended that direct funding with taxpayer dollars should be removed from the current model — a move that Mayor Hancock and Governor Hickenlooper supported.
At the end of 2018, Denver lost the bid for the 2030 Games to Salt Lake City. In the interim, a group called Let Denver Vote started collecting signatures to put Initiated Ordinance 302 on the May 7 ballot. Even though they gathered enough signatures, the petition was not submitted by the deadline to be included on May 7 and was pushed, landing on the runoff ballot for June 4.
Here is the exact wording of Initiated Ordinance 302:
Shall the voters of the City and County of Denver enact a measure prohibiting the use of public monies, resources, or fiscal guarantees in connection with any future Olympic Games, without the City first obtaining voter approval at a regularly scheduled municipal election or special election should the City decide to use public monies, resources, or guarantees for this purpose?
If you vote yes, you are in favor of allowing Denver voters to decide in the future if public resources should be diverted toward hosting an Olympic Games. As far as the wording of the ordinance stands, this includes any future bids for Olympic Games beyond June 4, 2019 (if I-302 passes). Supporters of I-302 believe that taxpayers should be part of a decision which will inevitably affect them and want that decision entrusted to the taxpayers in future generations.
If you vote no, you are keeping the decision-making up to governmental entities and private organizations — like the exploratory committee mentioned above. Opponents to I-302 believe the wording is “dangerously broad” and could have long-lasting consequences. They point out that the exploratory committee recommended a statewide vote — which would usurp any citywide voting anyway — and that there are professionals and professional organizations whose entire mission is to choose Olympic cities. Another point the opponents bring up is that since the Olympic Committee selected Los Angeles in 2028 and Salt Lake City in 2030, it’s unlikely that another US Olympic bid will be available until 2050.
Also read: The Independent’s article on how the Olympic Games are changing, The Orange County Register’s article about the LA 2028 Olympic Games operating privately with a balanced budget
I-302 is on the June 4 runoff election ballot, which also includes the two candidates for Mayor, Clerk and Recorder and five city council districts. Read our article about the rest of the ballot options here.