Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Colorado Springs should be a sister city of Ancient Olympia by Tuesday

By Joe Paisley Updated: April 7, 2014 at 6:32 pm 0

By Tuesday, Ancient Olympia and Colorado Springs could be sister cities.

Two Greek delegates are in the area through Thursday intending to make the first step in a relationship that could benefit the area's colleges, the U.S. Olympic movement and tourism.

A vote on a resolution is on Tuesday's agenda for the City Council. The delegates are Ancient Olympia vice mayor Aristideis Panagiotopoulos and Dionyssis S. Gangas, director of the International Olympic Academy, the academic arm of the International Olympic Committee that promotes Olympic ideals.

IOA representative Harris Kalofonos initiated the move last summer. The area resident came up with the idea while working for USA Wrestling during a June 2013 exhibition in Ancient Olympia that helped convince International Olympic Committee voters to keep the sport in the Summer Games.

"There had to be a way to connect the modern capital of the Olympic Games, at least in the U.S., with the ancient capital in Greece," the Greek national said. "I mentioned that obvious concept to others. It reached the ears of the mayor (Steve Bach) and he said make it happen."

The proposal cites possible benefits for academics, tourism and the area's Olympic movement.

Developing and promoting academic programs with Colorado College and University of Colorado-Colorado Springs could attract international students and young professionals to work for the U.S. Olympic Committee and the area's national governing bodies.

An exchange program with the IOA, which has dorm facilities for about 350 in Ancient Olympia, could develop or enhance current programs. Ivy League schools take part in symposiums and conference there.

"It could create a prestigious situation for both schools," Kalofonos said.

UCCS is interested, said Anthony Shull, executive director of the international affairs.

"Development of quality exchange agreements with international institutions and university partners is a key component to achieving these objectives," he said.

Cross-promotion with the Greek city of 14,000 residents, which draws about 2 million tourists each year, could also benefit the area, Kalofonos said.

"If it wants to be the capital of the Olympic movement in the U.S, it needs to have a connection with the ancient capital," he said. "It would greatly develop Olympic education outside Greece. By reaching out to Colorado Springs it (the IOA) follows its mission."

Colorado Springs has six sister cities: Bankstown, Australia; Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; Fujiyoshida, Japan; Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Nuevo Casas Grandes, Mexico; and Smolensk, Russia.

The resolution is supported by Colorado Springs Sister Cities International, the USOC, UCCS, CC, the city convention and visitors bureau, and the Downtown Partnership.

Visitors bureau communications director Chelsy Murphy said those relationships help tourism, citing a 2012 festival that drew tourists from Japan.

Developing ties could benefit a possible downtown Olympic museum, part of the City For Champions project, which includes a downtown sports and events center, a UCCS sports medicine center and a new Air Force Academy visitors center.

Kalofonos, who works as a volunteer for C4C, said artifacts could be part of visiting museum exhibitions. He stressed that a sister-city connection does not need C4C, but lays the groundwork to enhance it.

"It is a sensitive matter but right now it is just bones; just buildings to be built," he said. "That (C4C) is the skeleton and programs like this could be the muscle.

"This idea stands on its own."

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