You never know where a simple conversation might lead, how it might change your thinking, even inspire you.
So it was last weekend at an annual fundraiser roast for Cheyenne Village, the nonprofit provider of housing and other services for adults with developmental disabilities. (Disclosure: I’m a board member and past president.)
Bernard Sandoval and I had seen each other a night earlier at the Downtown Olympic Celebration coinciding with the start of the 2014 Winter Games. But we didn’t have the chance to visit until 24 hours later during that roast.
Sandoval, owner and president of Sandia Advertising and Design, mixes business with his own passion when it comes to promoting Colorado Springs. Nobody knows for sure who first coined the title of America’s Olympic City — I first wrote about it in 2007, longtime U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Mike Moran (now with the Colorado Springs Sports Corp.) has used the phrase countless times, and Sandoval has helped considerably, also using his creative resources to cultivate visuals including classy logos.
The slogan really began taking off in the past two years, with Sandoval and Moran pushing in their ways and the USOC leadership giving its approval as long as using America’s Olympic City doesn’t violate trademark and licensing standards. There’s a sharp-looking Facebook page, with more than 1,000 likes, and the City for Champions campaign that, if successful, would enhance the downtown presence with an Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame alongside a stadium and events center.
If you’re fearing this column now will devolve into yet another C4C sermon, calm down. It’s not about that.
Sandoval and I talked about how Colorado Springs has to do more than just build facilities to justify our claim as America’s Olympic City. The more I thought about it, I realized the time has come to start a new conversation.
It’s time for Colorado Springs to start proving itself in other ways. Not just grandiose plans after those facilities are built, but now. In the next year, but ideally before the end of 2014.
Here’s how: We conceive, plan and pull off a new gala event to honor the U.S. Olympic movement. This wouldn’t have to include the Olympic Hall of Fame ceremony, although it could — there hasn’t been an induction since 2012.
What we could create is an annual America’s Olympic City Salute at The Broadmoor, with awards that would allow the USOC to have another spotlight event for athletes. The emcee could be someone such as NBC’s Bob Costas or Al Michaels (heck, why not both?), and the program would provide special honors in various categories. Here are some possibilities, including versions of USOC honors that already exist:
• Olympians of the Year, male and female plus team, recognizing accomplishments at the Winter and Summer Games in even-numbered years, other performances in odd years.
• Paralympians of the Year, male and female and team, with the same parameters.
• Comeback Athletes of the Year, male and female, following typical standards.
• USOC Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year, flexible enough to serve as a career-capping recognition.
• Coaches of the Year, male and female, an area often overlooked in the Olympic realm.
• Olympic Training Center Resident Athletes of the Year, given solely to permanent residents for their achievements.
• Inspiration of the Year, which again could be open-ended and wouldn’t have to go to Olympians.
• National Governing Body of the year, honoring a USOC member sport.
The idea could be to announce most winners ahead of time, then perhaps bring in several finalists for the Olympians and Paralympians of the Year. Each winner would speak and mingle with the crowd, sitting at tables around the room. Top-notch highlight videos would add much to the occasion.
As part of the special weekend, we could have a separate luncheon and ceremony. It would bring two Olympic Hall of Fame members, and relatives of a third member no longer living, to Colorado Springs, and our city would honor them by unveiling life-size statues of each, placed along the walkways outside the museum and stadium. For instance, it could be Peggy Fleming, Carl Lewis and Jim Thorpe one year, perhaps Greg Louganis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Jesse Owens the next, and on and on.
An organizing group would make it happen, reshaping these ideas, and our Young Professionals could play a major role along with the Sports Corp.
You can be sure ESPN, or another cable sports network, would televise it — from America’s Olympic City.
That’s how we need to start thinking, and dreaming. With no limits.
Let’s make it happen.