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Bride, or Olympic ringbearer? 

City Sage

Here's a story of unrequited love.

She's a woman of a certain age, a faded beauty whose best days may have passed. Born to local wealth and influence, she fell in love with a handsome athlete with a wandering eye. She yearned for him and for his glamorous lifestyle, and pursued him for years. Finally, he moved in with her — but only after she agreed to invest millions in his struggling business.

The business succeeded in spite of eccentric managers, an occasionally dubious product line, and bitter disputes with competitors and partners. She was delighted by his success, and proud that she backed him when no one else would.

So it was a shock when he came to her one day, saying he was restless. It might be time, he said, for him to look for a new partner, one who could help him take the company to another level. Her friends told her to let him go, that he was delusional, that he'd come crawling back when he realized what a great deal he had. But she was in no mood to haggle.

Panicked and fearful, she offered him tens of millions to stay, mortgaging prime real estate to raise the cash.

He stayed, and she's delighted. She's built her life around him and his business, even paying local artists to paint an enormous mural honoring him near his headquarters. And him? He's gracious, courteous to all, and apparently at peace with life in the flyovers ... but you never know.

You may have guessed their names: Ms. Colorado Springs and her life partner, Mr. U.S. Olympic Committee.

Since inking the controversial $30 million-plus deal two years ago to keep the USOC here, the city has tried to brand itself with the Olympic rings. But does the USOC want Colorado Springs to be part of its brand?

"As we've said in many forums, we're grateful for the city's support," says USOC communications director Mark Jones. "We've hitched our wagon to this horse, and we have no regrets."

What about our national reputation? Do they want to be prominently linked to Doug Lamborn, to Focus on the Family, to our gay-unfriendly, God-fearing, gun-loving, good ol' right-wing political culture?

"I think that the reputation of Colorado Springs is much broader than that," Jones says.

Jones talks a good game. But take a look online. At springsgov.com, the city's logo, a stylized silhouette of downtown and Pikes Peak, features only two other elements; the Olympic rings and the words "Proud home of the United States Olympic Committee."

Now consider the USOC site, TeamUSA.org. Its banner includes two prominent images: the organization's logo on the left and the word "Donate" on the right.

If you click on "About the USOC," you find that Colorado Springs gets equal billing with Chula Vista, Calif., and Lake Placid, N.Y., as training center sites. If you then click on "USOC General Information," you get a curt little sentence noting that the "The United States Olympic Committee, one of America's premier sports organizations, is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo."

Prior to Tuesday, there was a photo on the site's "History" page of the beautiful, architecturally distinguished USOC headquarters building. It just wasn't the one we paid for. It was the USOC's home 50 years ago, located at 57 Park Ave., in Manhattan.

Did we detect a note of resentful nostalgia, a wistful desire to once again have a stand-alone building on Park Avenue? We asked Jones on Monday.

"We're happy right here," he said. By Tuesday, the organization had dropped the photo of 57 Park Ave., from its website and added a supersized pic of 27 S. Tejon St., along with a paragraph thanking city voters and taxpayers for their generous support.

Since leaving Manhattan, the USOC has transformed an obscure track meet (the Summer Olympics) and a ski weekend (the Winter Olympics) into multibillion-dollar businesses. Its presence makes Colorado Springs look good, and apparently the USOC is learning to make the most of having the city on its arm.

But at the core of this love story, the more cynical among us might also find a case of "You can't go home again." Today, 57 Park Ave., is occupied by the consulate general of Guatemala. And to the best of our knowledge, those folks aren't interested in a swap.

hazlehurst@csindy.com

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