Just Say No: Dick Lamm Returns to Capitol as Co-Chair of NOlympics

NOlympics supporters under Governor Richard  Lamm's portrait at the Capitol.
NOlympics supporters under Governor Richard Lamm's portrait at the Capitol. Westword
Dick Lamm was back at the Colorado State Capitol on Friday, March 9, walking up the elegant marble staircase to the west foyer, where he stood directly below the portrait painted when he served as governor. And there he announced that he was part of NOlympics Colorado, a grassroots coalition opposed to Colorado's pursuit of the 2030 Winter Olympics.

Lamm has been here before. In 1970, after considerable lobbying by local boosters, the International Olympic Committee awarded Denver the XII Winter Olympics, set for 1976. “This is the icing on the cake of our Colorado centennial celebration,” declared then-mayor Bill McNichols.

And then the cake fell, as people who'd been left out of the planning process complained about the potential environmental impacts and the threat of runaway growth, not to mention the rapidly rising price tag. Led by 34-year-old state representative Dick Lamm, a group of savvy opponents launched a campaign to stop the project, putting the question of whether to spend public money on the Winter Games on a statewide ballot, as well as a separate initiative in Denver. And in 1972, Denver became the only city in history to be awarded the Olympics and then turn them down.

Governor Dick Lamm, back at the Capitol.
Two years later, Lamm was elected governor of Colorado, a position he held for three terms. And now he was back at the Capitol, this time as a citizen — albeit one with a very unusual résumé — standing under his portrait, before a giant blank check, talking about why Colorado does not need the Olympics. Again.

When Colorado voters turned down the Olympics in 1972, he recalled, they did so for two reasons: concerns about the environment and "fiscal recklessness," the open-ended commitment that would have left taxpayers on the hook. "Those issues are back again," he said.

“Colorado has its own race to run. We can’t afford an Olympic-size distraction,” Lamm explains on the NOlympics site. “Moving forward as a state requires us to address countless issues in our state ranging from water scarcity to housing to growth we have not managed. We must keep our eye on the prize that is ours to protect — our people and our beautiful resources.”

While Lamm is serving as honorary co-chair of NOlympics, he told the gathering at the Capitol that he's ready to pass the torch to a "new team," including co-chair Kyle Zeppelin. The forty-member Exploratory Committee appointed by Mayor Michael Hancock to look into a potential bid for the 2030 Olympics has not been transparent, Zeppelin told the gathering, does not include community representatives, and is not considering the true cost of the Games. If the committee continues to push for a bid, he concluded, "Let's take a vote."

After all, Colorado has before, in an act that established this state's reputation as a haven for independent, questioning, caring individuals. But before things get to that point, is it so hard to just say no?

At 10 a.m. today, March 10, NOlympics co-chairs Lamm and Zeppelin will be part of a panel discussing the benefits and risks of hosting the Olympics; they'll be joined by Chris Dempsey, organizer of No Boston Olympics, as well as three representatives of the Exploratory Committee appointed by Mayor Michael Hancock and Governor John Hickenlooper: Chair Rob Cohen, Jerome Davis and Steve McConahey.

The event is hosted by Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation at Park Hill Congregational Church, 2600 Leyden Street; admission is free. And if you're interested in city issues, plan on making a day of it: At 1 p.m., there will be a panel discussion on the future of the Park Hill Golf Course.

Find out more on both programs at the Denver INC website.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun