What if….The Summer Olympics Had Been in Detroit in 1968?
I don't know how many people know the story, but Detroit bid on having the 1968 Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee ended up choosing Mexico City, but imagine for a second what having those games in Detroit would have been, for so many reasons.
1968 is already one of the most historically memorable years in the entire history of this country. Maybe the most important stories were the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, in April, and Senator (and presidential candidate) Robert F. Kennedy in June; The Democratic Convention in Chicago was in late August of 1968. You had major racial protests (that began prior to 1968), not just in Detroit and Chicago, but across the country. The Vietnam war was raging, and the Soviets were reasserting their stranglehold on Czechoslovakia.
For many Michiganders, there was one bright spot: the Detroit Tigers won the World Series in October of 1968.
But I ran across a story about a failed bid to bring the summer Olympics to Detroit that just fascinated me.
(Official White House photo)
Detroit had been bidding to get the Olympics here since the 1930's; even came close several times. But even with the help of the White House and a popular president, Detroit was snubbed for Mexico City in 1968. But, what if? As it says in the video below, a successful bid would have meant a 100,000 seat stadium where the Fairgrounds were. Wayne State would've been an Olympic Village. Belle Isle the center for rowing events and now much more. But it didn't happen.
(Click on Detroit via YouTube)
The argument can be made that all the bright, shiny new stadiums in the world wouldn't have cured what was wrong, at the core, in Detroit. The city hosted two Super Bowls, political events. and other national sporting championship, and that barely moved the needle. But, in the years leading up to 1968, with the knowledge the Olympics would be coming, could all the diverse groups that made up the population, could they have all worked together? Who's to say? And also who's to say that the civic pride and self-esteem that hosting a successful Olympic games wouldn't have made at least a small difference in the coming years?