The entire world watched as Barack Obama stood on a stage in Grant Park last November and declared victory in the race for the White House. If all goes according to plan, the world's attention would be focused on that same spot seven years from now.
But this time, they would be watching archers from around the globe, shooting arrows at targets in a quest for Olympic medals.
Chicago's Olympic venues would densely pack downtown, but would extend as far as southern Wisconsin. Athletes would be housed in a permanent village, which, post-games, would become a condo-development just south of McCormick Place. The Olympic Stadium, traditionally the iconic centerpiece of any Olympic Games, would largely be dismantled, after its two-weeks in the spotlight in Washington Park.
But don't call it temporary.
"Our entire plan is that it is not a temporary stadium," said Michael Halchak, with the stadium planning giant HOK. "It is a purpose built stadium for the Olympic Games."
Chicago's stadium planners insist the nearly $400 million stadium will be almost indistinguishable from its permanent counterparts.
"The whole experience from a spectator perspective, from all other user groups, will be essentially the same as any other stadium that you might walk into, in terms of what you would think of as a permanent facility," Halchak said. "In our minds, this facility is as good as any permanent stadium, and in many cases better because it is so purpose built to see the Olympic Games, and athletics in general."
The Chicago stadium would seat roughly the same number of spectators as Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium, the centerpiece of the 2008 Summer Games. But it would not present nearly as massive a footprint.
"I would say that that stadium was built as a national icon," Halchak said. "This stadium that we're proposing is built as a games icon, for this period of time." After the games, the Chicago stadium would largely be dismantled, with only one third remaining in Washington Park.
On Northerly Island, the former Meigs Field site, Chicago planners would locate 3 competition venues: beach volleyball, canoe/kayak slalom, and sailing. Of those, only the canoe/kayak course would remain as a permanent facility.
"It's really about the community," said HOK's Jerry Anderson. "To have this very unique type of recreation available, literally minutes from your front door."
The construction of the temporary facilities would be as solid as any permanent venue, Anderson said. "It's not just a high school plank bleacher anymore," he said. "This is a nice chair that we're all comfortable in!"
And the savings, say Chicago planners, are enormous: about 1/5 to 1/8 the cost of a permanent venue. Construction of the stadium in Washington Park is estimated at $397.6 million; the tennis facility in Lincoln Park would be $31 million; archery in Grant Park $10.9 million; the sailing facility on Northerly Island, $15.2 million.
The planners believe Chicago presents them with one built-in advantage: iconic settings for the Olympic Venues, Anderson said. "As we look at the future of the games, Chicago is really out there, leading in how the games can be done, in the future, in other cities and countries."
Doug Arnot of Chicago 2016 agreed. "We're not necessarily building iconic buildings," he says. "But we are certainly building in iconic places."