No Thanks: Why Denver Turned Down the '76 Olympics

Successfully snagging hosting duties for the Olympic Games is one of the toughest things a city can do. Chicago spent nearly $50 million on a bid for the 2016 Summer Games, and even that eight-figure budget couldn't grab the rings. Of course, that $50 million pales in comparison to the cost of actually hosting the Games, which run into the billions for construction and operating expenses.

Still, even though the Olympics are expensive and have a debatable long-term effect on a city's economy, many places are dying to get them. After all, what could be cooler than spending two weeks as the center of the world's attention? But if you lived in Denver in the 1970s, your answer would have been "all kinds of things."

In May 1970 the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics to Denver, which edged out Sion, Switzerland, Tampere, Finland, and Vancouver. Denver's politicians and media rejoiced; getting the Games was a major coup for them. Colorado had been trying to nab the Winter Olympics for nearly 20 years.

The Opposition

Denverites and their fellow Coloradoans, on the other hand, were less than thrilled. They quickly realized that hosting the Olympics is a really, really pricey venture and that the cash to cover infrastructure costs would likely be coming from their paychecks. On top of that, the environmentally conscious populace worried about the impact of bringing thousands of people into proposed Olympic venues that stretched over 150 miles from Denver to Steamboat.

nixon-olympicsBy 1972, a charismatic young politician named Dick Lamm had begun publicly opposing the Denver Games, and he soon became the torchbearer for the no-Olympics-in-Denver movement. This strong opposition put Denver's hosting committee in a delicate situation. The IOC had long asserted that it wouldn't hold the games in Denver unless public money was available to help foot the bill, so unless the people of Colorado would change their minds, the Olympics were going elsewhere.

It sounds like an almost trivial amount of money now, but Denver ultimately ended up losing the Games over $5 million. In November 1972, the state's voters weighed in on whether they would authorize a $5 million bond issue to help finance the Games. There was only one problem with this $5 million estimate: it was probably far too low. Even then, hosting the Olympics was wildly expensive, and previous host cities had ended up shelling out several times more money than they thought would be necessary to run the games.

What happened? The voters didn't just shoot down the bond issue; they overwhelmingly rejected it by a nearly 60-40 margin. A week after the vote, Denver officially relinquished its status as host city.

Now it was the IOC that found itself in a sticky situation. It needed a new venue for the 1976 Games, and it only had a little over three years to pick a city and get its infrastructure up to speed. The IOC offered Whistler the first crack at the Games, but the Canadians graciously declined. Salt Lake City offered up its hosting services, but the IOC wasn't going to fall for Americans' tricks twice in a row. Eventually, Innsbruck, Austria, stepped in as host. Innsbruck had hosted the 1964 Games, so it could handle the fast turnaround.

Second Thoughts?

Don't think Denverites hate the Olympics, though. The city actually expressed interest in making a bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. The U.S. Olympic Committee turned the city down, though, so it could focus on Chicago's failed bid for the 2016 Games. Many local politicians and athletes blamed the city bailing on the 1976 Games for the USOC's lack of enthusiasm for a 2018 bid.

2018 Winter Olympics By the Numbers: Which Country Was the Big Winner in Pyeongchang?

The closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics was held on Sunday, February 25, concluding more than two weeks of history-making figure-skating jumps and listening to curlers yell at each other. But if you're someone who tunes in to the Olympics only to see your country win, you may have been left feeling confused. There was no official winner announced at the end of the event, so how are you supposed to know which nation dominated the Winter Games? Judging solely by medal count, these are the countries that skied, skated, and slid their way to the top in Pyeongchang.

According to Bloomberg, Norway came out of the games as the most decorated country. The Scandinavian nation of 5.3 million took home 11 bronze, 14 silver, and 14 gold medals, bringing the total to 39. That makes Norway the biggest single nation winner at any Winter Olympics, breaking the prior record of 37, which was set by the U.S. at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Norway was represented by about half the number of athletes competing on Team USA, but it was bolstered by a few advantages—like long winters (making training for cross-country sports easier), universal healthcare, and a culture that encourages young athletes to play sports for the sake of play rather than for the sake of winning.

Germany tied Norway for the most golds with 14, but earned 10 silver and seven bronze medals, landing them in second place with 31. Canada ranked third with 29 medals overall, 11 of which were gold, and the United States came in fourth with a tally of 23 medals, including nine golds. The Netherlands, Sweden, South Korea, Switzerland, France, and Austria round out the top 10.

Teams used to spending a lot of time on the podium may strive for that top slot, but placing in any event is impressive. The majority of teams that competed went home without any medals to show for their efforts. Fortunately, they have until 2022 to prepare for the next Winter Olympics in Beijing.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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The Most Decorated Winter Olympians in History
Lars Baron/Getty Images
Lars Baron/Getty Images

For most athletes, winning a medal at the Olympics would be the pinnacle of their career. But these athletes didn't stop at just one. They excelled under pressure and earned themselves a spot in the annals of their respective sports as the Most Decorated Winter Olympians.

1. Marit Bjørgen, 14 Medals

Country: Norway
Sport: Cross-country skiing

Marit Bjørgen
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Bjørgen became the most decorated athlete at the 2010 Vancouver Games with five medals. She added three gold medals in 2014 to bring her lifetime total up to six golds, three silvers, and one bronze—making her the most successful female Olympian. With a gold, silver, and two bronze medals in PyeongChang, she became the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time.

2. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, 13 Medals

Country: Norway
Sport: Biathlon

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Bjoerndalen won two gold medals at Sochi in 2014—in men's sprint biathlon and in the first Olympic mixed relay biathlon—to give him the lead in career-medal count. His hardware collection now includes eight gold medals, four silver, and one bronze. The 44-year-old failed to qualify for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

3. Bjorn Daehlie, 12 Medals

Country: Norway
Sport: Cross-country skiing

Bjorn Daehlie
Bob Martin/ALLSPORT/Getty Images

When Bjoerndalen won his 13th career medal, he surpassed fellow countryman Daehlie, who had held the record for most Olympic medals since his dominance in the '90s. Over three Winter Games Daehlie won eight gold and four silver medals before sustaining a career-ending injury as a result of a roller-skiing accident in 1999.

4 (tie). Raisa Smetanina, 10 Medals

Country: Russia
Sport: Cross-country skiing

Osetrov Yuri/ITAR-TASS/Landov

Although Bjørgen and Belmondo (below) have since matched her, Smetanina was the first woman to win 10 Olympic medals. Her final, a gold medal, came at her fifth Olympic Games in Albertville in 1992. She was 39 years old—at that time the oldest woman to win a Winter Olympic gold.

4 (tie). Stefania Belmondo, 10 Medals

Country: Italy
Sport: Cross-country skiing

Stefania Belmondo

Belmondo's Olympic career spanned a decade—from the 1992 Albertville Games through the 2002 Salt Lake City Games—despite a devastating injury in 1993. She ended her career with two gold medals, three silver, and five bronze.

6 (tie). Lyubov Yegorova, 9 Medals

Country: Russia
Sport: Cross-country skiing

REUTERS/Mal Langsdon

Yegorova only made two Olympic appearances: at Albertville in 1992, and two years later at Lillehammer. She managed to squeeze nine medals out of those Games—six gold and three silver—before her career came to an end due to a doping scandal at the 1997 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships.

6 (tie). Claudia Pechstein, 9 Medals

Country: Germany
Sport: Speed skating

Claudia Pechstein
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Pechstein is the most successful Olympic speed skater—male or female—in the world, and also the most successful German Winter Olympian of all time. That said, she missed the chance to set herself even further apart in the 2010 Games after getting slapped with a two-year ban from the sport in 2009 for doping accusations.

6 (tie). Sixten Jernberg, 9 Medals

Country: Sweden
Sport: Cross-country skiing

1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck
Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Jernberg (right) was a blacksmith and a lumberjack before beginning his career as a cross-country skier. Over three Olympics in the 1950s and '60s, he earned four gold, three silver, and two bronze medals, never finishing lower than fifth.

6 (tie). Uschi Disl, 9 Medals

Country: Germany
Sport: Biathlon


This five-time Olympian is the owner of two gold medals, four silver and three bronze, and the 2005 title of German Sportswoman of the Year. She has been the most successful women’s biathlete at the Olympic Games, although she never won a gold in an individual event.


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