Your Ward Room Blogger is an avid runner and a track buff, so I spent much of last week watching the World Track and Field Championships on Universal Sports, NBC’s Olympic sports network (5.3 on your digital dial). Toward the end of the meet, I had a revelation: we should have this in Chicago. It might help us get the Olympics.
One reason Rio de Janeiro beat us out for the 2016 Games is that Rio had a plan to prove itself as a venue for an international sporting event. In 2007, Rio hosted the Pan American Games, which is open to athletes from any country in the Western Hemisphere. By the time of the International Olympic Committee vote, Rio had also secured the 2014 World Cup. Chicago last hosted the Pan-Am Games in 1959. We thought that the 2006 Gay Games would demonstrate our fitness as an Olympic city, but that event does not attract world-class athletes.
Mayor Richard M. Daley seemed to assume that Chicago’s reputation as a world-class city -- plus the endorsement of President Obama -- would be enough for the IOC. That worked for London when Toni Blair testified, but the rest of the world doesn’t think we’re as much of a world-class city as we do. If we want the Olympics, we need to start small and work our way up. The United States won the most medals at this year’s World Track and Field Championships, but the meet has never been held in this country. It’s only been held in the Western Hemisphere once, when Edmonton hosted in 2001. We’re due over here. Athens hosted the 1997 championships, and was awarded the 2004 Olympics that same year.
Moscow has the 2013 championships, followed by Beijing in 2015. The International Association of Athletic Federations will choose a 2017 city in November. That means our next chance is for 2019. A World Track and Field Championships could set us up for the Olympics in 2024 of 2028. Those years sound far away, but for most cities, an Olympic Games are a once-in-history event. They’re worth the hard work and planning.
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