Detroit’s Past Olympic Hopes

Driving through the streets on a brisk fall afternoon, there are reminders everywhere of what could have been. From the abandoned lots to the still unfinished dormitories surrounding Wayne State University, there are signs all around on progress that went unfulfilled in Detroit.

Quick, which American city has finished in the top three in the IOC selection process the most times without being selected? That’s right – Detroit, Michigan, which last took a run at the 1972 Olympics in 1965, joins Chicago and New York City in not having the opportunity to have hosted the Olympics.

In 1965, the city failed at its most valiant attempt of acquiring the Olympics. It has been 40-plus years since Detroit’s last realistic chance of an Olympic program went to Munich. Surely the race riots that would have arrived before the games would have inevitably happened at some point along with the realistic backlash. The economic downturn of the times would have still been present in the city too. In hindsight, we can look back and wonder in ‘what-ifs’ if Detroit had been thrust beneath a greater spotlight during that tumultuous decade.

“The Detroit you’ve never met.” This bid slogan for Detroit was, and still remains, appropriate of Motown’s intentions. Seemingly unable to get beyond misconceived perceptions, the 1965 bid video (see screenshots below) highlighted incredible venues for the time along with a mass transit system that the city remains without to this day. The zeal presented by the city throughout its still and motion images relays a time that the current generation has a difficult time relating with.

1968 was a year that really brought a great deal of pain to our nation and to a city still recovering from divisiveness. Looking back, perhaps Tommie Smith and John Carlos would have had their fists in the air beneath a Michigan summer sky. Maybe Willie Horton doesn’t gun down Lou Brock at the plate during the World Series, but the Cardinals go on to win in seven. Chicago, like New York City before it in 2005, continued the long list of American cities hoping that the Olympics will change the way that their city and this country are perceived on the world’s stage. Maybe it’s time that future bid cities take a look back and rediscover their history before reaching for their own Olympic glory.

Detroit Olympics