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No Thanks: Why Denver Turned Down the '76 Olympics

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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.

innsbruck
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.

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KXIV
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Redesigned Adidas Sneakers Channel Beijing’s Olympic Stadium
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KXIV

Beijing National Stadium has stood empty since the 2008 Olympics, but that hasn’t stopped the building from becoming an architectural icon. Designer KXIV (Nathan Kiatkulpiboone) found inspiration in the tangled "Bird’s Nest" structure when re-imagining Adidas’s Ultraboost running shoe. As designboom reports, he used 3D-printing technology to achieve the lattice design.

KXIV comes from a background in architecture. When he isn’t dreaming up shopping centers or city towers, he’s applying the principles he uses as an architect to sneaker design. In 2014, he unveiled a pair of Nike Jordan X shoes that borrowed elements from Thailand’s White Temple and Black House. He's also created a line of dress shoes inspired by modern architecture for the footwear brand SewRaw.

His latest project evokes the Bird’s Nest woven exterior. The Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron designed the stadium for the 2008 Olympics, and today it’s remembered as one of the most distinctive structures ever built for the games.

To recreate the look on an Adidas sneaker, KXIV used polyurethane webbing fused to a lycra base. The upper layer of bands were 3D-printed in a way that holds the shoes together. The sneakers are just a prototype, so like the stadium they’re based on, the striking form will remain unused for the foreseeable future.

Shoes inspired by Beijing National Stadium.
KXIV
KXIV

Shoes inspired by Beijing National Stadium.
KXIV

[h/t designboom]

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What’s the Kennection? #148
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