Mile High city could land Olympics

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A helicopter ride over the city with Gov. Bill Ritter. Dinner with Mayor John Hickenlooper. Escorted tours through Coors Field, Invesco Field at Mile High and the Pepsi Center.

Hein Verbruggen crammed a lot of activities into his 48-hour whirlwind tour of the Mile High City that wrapped up Friday.

Verbruggen, a top International Olympic Committee official, wandered through the city on a reconnaissance mission for SportAccord, an annual international sports convention that brings together International Sports Federations and members of the International Olympic Committee.

Denver will host the convention in March 2009, marking the first time SportAccord will be held in North America since its inception in 2003.

``It's great to see Denver and Colorado on the international sports stage,'' Ritter said in a statement.

After his tour, Verbruggen is convinced the city could one day be the site of an international sporting event. He could envision a world hockey championship being played at the Pepsi Center down the road.

But the city needs more worldwide exposure.

SportAccord could help. The convention draws influential decision makers from more than 60 countries to network and discuss issues facing the sports industry. It's an opportunity to show off the host city.

The convention this April in Beijing drew close to 1,400 delegates, including senior IOC members, sports federation leaders, television executives and corporate CEOs.

``If you want to have international events in this city, you have to get in touch with international federations,'' said Verbruggen, who's a chairman for SportAccord and former president of the International Cycling Union. ``I've seen incredible facilities here. Many federations would be interested in coming here.''

The city was awarded the Winter Olympics in 1976, but opponents said it would be too expensive and environmentally harmful. Voters defeated a measure that would've provided funding and the city withdrew, opening the way for Innsbruck, Austria, to host the '76 Winter Games.

And while there's talk of exploring a possible bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics, Verbruggen's advice is to put the Olympics on the back burner and concentrate on landing other international events.

"Host a world championship in hockey or in judo or fencing instead,'' Verbruggen said. ``People will know your city. World Championships and World Cups: that's what puts your city on the world map.''