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Time is right for rollout of 'Olympic City USA.' Colorado Springs leaders say

February 27, 2016 Updated: February 28, 2016 at 11:48 am
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A new logo possibility for Colorado Springs featuring it as "Olympic City USA".

Colorado Springs long has been famed for its stunning scenery, but it's finally out to get its due, too, as the hub of U.S. Olympic athletics.

The city now is officially known as Olympic City USA, as approved Nov. 19 by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Former Mayor Steve Bach won approval of and used the name America's Olympic City. But in the fall, the USOC advised Doug Price, president and CEO of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, that it would prefer Olympic City USA.

That resonated with Price, as he and first lady Janet Suthers had just been struck by the power of the Music City USA brand during a trip to Nashville.

So why are city leaders only now rolling out the Olympic City USA moniker OK'd three months ago?

Because the logo just got developed, and they wanted to be sure they got everything right, Price said.

"The USOC approves everything around this project. So we didn't want a false start without our very key strategic partner being a part of this," he said.

As with Nashville's use of Music City USA, which took 13 years to catch on, the Olympic City USA designation is apt in every regard.

The USOC has been headquartered here since 1978.

The U.S. Olympic Training Center houses 515 top athletes at any given time, and up to 15,000 more come to the center for week- to months-long training camps throughout the year. Olympic figure skaters live and train at The Broadmoor World Arena Ice Hall.

Nearly 100 Olympic athletes also live full-time in the Colorado Springs area, including Monument and Woodland Park. And the city will be home to the Olympic Museum, with ground expected to be broken this spring.

As if that athletics concentration isn't enough to shame any couch potato, Colorado Springs also is home to at least 58 national and international sports organizations, plus about two dozen national governing bodies of sports.

But if a rose by any other name smells as sweet, how will Colorado Springs' new title matter?

"We have an image formed from the outside in by people who don't live here," Price said, pointing to recent fires, floods and shootings. "What I'm most excited about is, this gives us the chance to brand from the inside out."

It's also a chance to imbue Olympic values in children and adult residents alike, said Michelle Dusserre Farrell, a 20-year resident and Olympian who won the 1984 silver medal for team gymnastics with Mary Lou Retton.

"I've been involved with the Olympic movement since age 15," Farrell said. "I've been impacted by the Olympic movement for more than half my life. There's such a strong message that resonates with the Olympic spirit that's so powerful, and it's such a great opportunity to tap into that for this community."

The Olympic values are friendship, respect and excellence, and Paralympic values are determination, inspiration, courage and equality.

Farrell adds perseverance, loyalty and sportsmanship as characteristics she associates with the Olympics.

"You don't have to be an Olympic athlete to live by Olympic ideals," she said.

She is working with Janet Suthers and others to encourage athletes to engage with the community, especially school children, but without encroaching on their training time in preparation for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"We recognize that our Olympic athletes are among our best and greatest assets to Olympic City USA. We're being sensitive to the fact this is an Olympic year, and our athletes have a big task in front of them," Farrell said.

But when time permits, "Each athlete has a unique story to tell - how they started, what they overcame. And sharing that story is a really great way to connect with kids and provides inspirational messaging to our youth."

They'll also be encouraged to attend community events and connect with Colorado Springs life, she said.

Bob Djocovich, who competed with the 1984 Olympic handball team, now is vice president at TechWise and will help athletes develop skills to enter the workplace when they retire from sports.

So will Terris Tiller, a modern pentathlon aficionado who works as a career coach for the USOC.

"That's probably one of the hardest things for athletes," Farrell said. "They retire from their sport and are entering the workplace, relative to same-age peers, at a totally different place.

"The USOC for a long time has worked really hard to try to help athletes with that transition. Now, with Olympic City USA, there will be more local connections."

The city gradually will infuse the new logo and brand into its materials and will work with the Regional Business Alliance and Convention and Visitors Bureau to encourage tourists and sports-related businesses alike to come to Colorado Springs, said Jamie Fabos, the city's chief communications officer.

"One of the things that really helped this brand get going was the passion Janet Suthers had," Price said. "There's nothing like having the mayor's wife on a trip with you."

Her husband is very enthusiastic, too.

"No other American city can claim this identity," Mayor John Suthers said. "We have an abundance of world-class athletes training in our scenic venues. Our Olympic-related events and activities are a great contributor to our local economy - to business, to medicine, to education and to our culture. Olympic and Paralympic values and ideals are something we all believe in.

"We should be proud of our affiliation with this timeless brand and enthusiastically claim the title of Olympic City USA."

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