SPORTS GALORE: The Olympics in Detroit?

By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 9:55 am on Friday, July 27, 2012

The 2012 London Summer Olympic Games officially get underway tonight in England with the spectacular opening ceremony.

This will be the third time London has hosted the Summer Olympics. They also hosted in 1908 and 1948. London was selected to host the 1944 games, but the games were canceled due to World War II.

A little known fact is London defeated Rome and Detroit to earn the Olympic nomination for the second time.

I’m guessing you probably just reread that last sentence a couple of times. That is not a typo and no I’m not kidding about Detroit vying for the Olympics.

In fact, the city of Detroit placed bids to host the Summer Games seven times. Beginning in 1944, Detroit bid for each and every games through the 1972 Olympics that were hosted by Munich.

With London hosting in 1948, Detroit lost to Helsinki, Melbourne and Rome through 1960. Detroit’s best chance for hosting the games came in 1964 and 1968. Both times Detroit finished second in voting by the International Olympic Committee. Tokyo hosted in 1964 and Mexico City in 1968.

With its current image, I’m sure many of you find it difficult to believe Detroit had a chance at such an event.

While downtown Detroit is now bustling with development and entertainment with the Detroit Tigers, Red Wings and Lions, the rest of the city is a mess structurally and fiscally. It is full of crime and murder. But it wasn’t always this way.

I lived most of my life in the Detroit area, even a small portion in the city limits as a young child, before making my way west. The city was in crash mode following the riots of 1968 and not getting any better in the late 1970s when I was born. Like many others, my family moved to the suburbs to escape the city.

Now, when I drive through the streets of Detroit I always wonder what the city was like in its heyday. And its heyday was in the 1950s and early to mid 1960s. My grandmother actually grew up in a house just minutes from Comerica Park. Can’t say that is where I would want to live now.

Detroit had nearly 2 million residents in the 1950s. It was the nation’s fourth largest city behind New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. In the 1960s, they were fifth with Los Angeles jumping to third and Philadelphia dropping to fourth.

The city was a leader in many aspects and worthy of hosting the Olympic Games. I can’t imagine what that would have done for the city. It makes me wonder if the riots were inevitable or would the nomination have changed the future of the Motor City.

If you go to there is a promotional video for the Detroit bid. It is in two parts and totals 18 minutes. The video is narrated by then mayor Jerome P. Cavanagh and is interesting to say the least.

So as I watch the Summer Games the next couple of weeks I will be wondering where Detroit could have hosted various events. Now, not every event would have to be held in the city limits, but the metro area has plenty of options with a total population of 5 million.

Detroit has recently hosted the MLB All-star game, NCAA Final Four and the Super Bowl. They held those events with great success and will probably get the chance to do so again in the future.

Unfortunately, the opportunity to host the Olympics went out the window in 1968. It’s nice to know my hometown area was once considered the best in the country. Hopefully, one day that will be the truth again.

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