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FILE — In this Feb. 2, 2015, file photo, fireworks explode during the opening ceremony for the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, in Vail, Colo. Vail Resorts, which is the largest resort operator in North America, is buying the continent’s biggest ski area, Canada’s Whistler, the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Vail Resorts Inc. announced Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, that it was purchasing Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc., the Canadian ski resort company, for $1.06 billion, adding to its aggressive expansion. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

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If Denver decides to bid on the Winter Olympic Games in 2030 — and that’s a big “if” — it will have one fewer competitor among potential U.S. sites.

The Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition will decline an invitation from the U.S. Olympic Committee to bid on the 2030 Winter Olympics, the Tahoe Daily Tribune reported Monday.

That leaves Denver and Salt Lake City invited to bid for winter games.

Salt Lake hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002, the last U.S. city to do so.

The Reno-Tahoe panel decided that a bid would not be practical financially, but it did not rule out a bid after 2030.

A bid on the games requires a workbook outlining proposed venues, transportation planning, security and other issues.

The Reno-Tahoe area, straddling the California-Nevada line, hosted the 1960 Olympic Winter Games at Squaw Valley, near Lake Tahoe’s north shore.

The news comes amid signs of renewed interest in Denver for winter games, decades after Colorado won and then rejected the event.

In June, an exploratory committee of Denver civic, community and business leaders convened by Mayor Michael Hancock recommended that the city should bid for Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games — but only if Colorado voters approve.

Hancock formed the committee last December with Gov. John Hickenlooper to explore whether an Olympics bid would make sense for the city and state.

The panel “recommends that Denver and Colorado pursue hosting a future Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games,” according to its June 1 announcement.

The committee said it “recommends that any future bid effort only go forward if endorsed by a statewide vote of Coloradans in 2020 or beyond.”

It said the Winter Olympics “would be a statewide event, with major competition venues outside of Denver and athletes and spectators from all over the state participating; therefore, a statewide referendum would empower the voters of Colorado to decide.”

The panel concluded that “Denver and Colorado’s mountain communities are more than capable of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and that there is statewide support for hosting the Games.”

In a statement, Rob Cohen, CEO of The IMA Financial Group, said the committee he heads “developed a new financial model that would enable a future organizing committee to host the Games without requiring direct funding from any public entity or the taxpayers, nor would it rely upon government guarantees.”

The panel’s report estimated it would cost $1.8 billion to $2.1 billion to stage the games in Colorado if existing facilities were used to the extent possible.

Financing would come from corporate backing and sponsorships, ticket revenue, licensing and merchandising and an expected International Olympic Committee (IOC) contribution of more than $500 million, the report says.

Not everyone in Denver is on board. An opposition group called NOlympics, led by real estate developer Kyle Zeppelin, argues that taxpayers could wind up paying for cost overruns if a private-financing plan falls short.

If the USOC submits a bid from a U.S. city to the IOC, the international panel would choose a site from among bids submitted by various nations. The USOC is expected to submit only one U.S. city — or none.

The Olympic Winter Games are held every four years on a schedule alternating with the summer games. The next winter games will be in Beijing in 2022.

The IOC plans to select the 2026 host city in September 2019; a U.S. city is not in the running. Bidding for the 2030 games likely will begin in 2021, with a host city announced two years later.

The call for a statewide vote before a bid is significant. Denver was chosen in 1970 to host the 1976 games. But a statewide vote in 1972 made Denver the only place ever to reject Olympic games after winning the bid. Voters defeated the proposed $5 million bond issue to finance the Olympics.

At a time when anti-growth, pro-environment feeling ran high in Colorado, Dick Lamm — then a Democratic legislator — and others began to speak out against hosting the Olympics.

They cited the cost and potential environmental impact and warned that games might draw hordes of new residents. And at a time when Winter Olympic venues were near one another, they noted the Denver Olympics sites would be up to 170 miles apart.

The 1976 Olympics instead were held in Innsbruck, Austria.

Lamm’s leadership on the issue helped him win the first of three terms as governor in 1974. And growth came to Colorado anyway.

A 2012 survey found that 74 percent of Colorado voters approved of an Olympics bid. And local officials have talked often in recent years about the benefits of staging the games.

In the June announcement, the exploratory committee said it “recognizes the concerns raised in Colorado communities regarding challenges faced in the areas of affordable housing, transportation, mobility and sustainability. While an Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games cannot solve such shared priorities for the city and state, the Games could be a catalyst to speed up solutions that may be planned or under consideration. For instance, previous North American host cities, such as Salt Lake City and Vancouver, benefitted from improvements to their roads to and from their mountain communities.”

“A statewide referendum gives Coloradans the chance to weigh in on the potential to host a Winter Games,” Hickenlooper said in June. “We handle crowds much greater than the typical Winter Games attendance without significant congestion or other impacts to the state. This report shows how a Winter Games could provide long term economic, social and environmental benefits.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Managing Editor, Colorado Politics

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