The Olympic foes further argued that the Games, at whatever cost, were an unwelcome extension of the "sell-Colorado" campaign that Governor Love has used to attract tourism and industry during his three terms in office. In fact, this may have been the strongest slat in the bed on which the Denver Olympics were laid to rest. Many Coloradans believe that Love's efforts have been, if anything, too successful. Evidence that the state may have been oversold is there in the Los Angeles-style sprawl that now stretches from Denver westward into the foothills of the Rockies. With problems of smog and water shortages worsening, posters have gone up urging outsiders to "Ski Kansas" and bumper stickers have flowered reading DON'T CALIFORNICATE COLORADO.
"We're starting to realize that growth isn't necessarily good," said Lamm. "We've got to stop this knee-jerk boosterism and mindless promotionalism."
All this was in stark contrast to the goodwill that prevailed back in May 1970 when a band of Denver boosters returned triumphantly from Amsterdam, having been awarded the '76 Games by the IOC. In view of the anti-Establishment cries heard later, it is noteworthy that much of the earliest opposition came from Evergreen, an affluent suburb in the foothills west of town with a population only slightly less rarefied than the 7,000-foot altitude. It was agreed in Amsterdam that the Olympic Nordic events would be staged in Evergreen but, unhappily, the matter had been discussed with few people who actually lived there.
The opposition that soon developed in Evergreen was sometimes hysterical, maintaining that biathlon competitors would gun down innocent children in their schoolyards. A more justifiable concern was the DOOC's failure to let the IOC in on the secret that Evergreen is in a mild region where chances of snow at the time of the Games would be one in 25. The sites had been chosen, of course, in the interest of keeping the Games on the front side of the range—and thus easily within a promised 45-minute drive.
Similar thinking influenced the location of the proposed downhill course. This was Mount Sniktau, a craggy, wind-whipped peak with scanty snow covering, a deficiency Denver's leaders hid by having an artist airbrush snow on bald spots in the picture submitted to the IOC.
Perhaps the airbrushing ploy was a perfect pointer to the entire blunder: in their eagerness to boost Denver, the committeemen had clearly sold the wrong side of the Rockies to the IOC. Denver, east of the Continental Divide, is not itself a ski area; the obvious Olympic-caliber skiing is many miles to the west. It is still puzzling that more knowledgeable protests were not raised earlier than they were.
On top of these and other misrepresentations, it also became clear that the Denver committee's $14 million price tag was utterly unrealistic. Through the veil of obfuscation came but one ray of light. Asked about the Denver delegation's performance in Amsterdam, Colorado Lieutenant Governor John Vanderhoof said: "They were pressed for time, so they lied a bit."
Under growing attack by now, the Olympic leadership went to Sapporo for the '72 Games where Mayor McNichols assured officials that "only 1% of the people back home oppose the Olympics." To argue otherwise, the newly formed CCF sent three delegates of its own to Japan, where they forced their way into a meeting to tell the IOC of the growing anti-Olympic sentiment in Colorado. Returning home, they easily collected 77,392 signatures, some 25,000 more than the number needed to put the Olympics on last week's ballot.
Later, while the winter sport world watched with growing amazement, the Denver panel made a last, desperate effort to save everything by redistributing the Games—a schedule reluctantly accepted by the IOC. First bobsledding was bustled right out, over the futile objections of that sport's international federation. Then Nordic events were shifted from Evergreen to Steamboat Springs, a 156-mile drive through the mountains. Alpine events wound up 100 miles away near Vail. Only luge, hockey and skating stayed in Denver. The scattered new sites made better technical and ecological sense, but instead of the centralized concept promised in Amsterdam they offered a strange new Olympic mode and a sharp break with history. In addition to expense, there was the prospect of three Olympic Villages, plus air and auto lifts for competitors to opening and closing rites.
In their efforts to undo the damage caused by past sins, Olympic supporters seemed clearly desperate: McNichols was accused of election-code violations when literature calling the Olympics "a force for peace, brotherhood and international goodwill" was distributed with the pay envelopes of the city's 8,000 employees, and if the mayor could have had his way, he clearly would have submitted the entire matter to Emily Post for arbitration.