Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Crazy Idea #4 – The Detroit/Windsor 2020 Olympics

A few weeks ago, the world collectively stopped watching a two week party, also known as The Olympics, thrown by our Chinese overlords. Many commentators referred to the event as China’s “coming out” party, as in “Hey we’re China, we own all your national debt, we produce most of the things that you use, there are 1.3 billion people in our country, and we’re using a proportionately larger and larger percentage of global commodities, and our table tennis development program beats the crap out of your table tennis development program” That kind of coming out party. The opening ceremonies were quite a spectacle, as were the closing ceremonies, and everything in between was surprisingly engrossing. As I watched bits and pieces of the events and coverage, there was one overarching message that was really driven home by the commentators – “Check out China. I can’t believe what they’ve done with the place.” CNN.com reported earlier this summer that it cost $45B for Beijing to prepare for the Olympics, compared to a relatively paltry sum of $1.5B for the Atlanta games in 1996. In China, this money was spent on literally everything you could imagine to prepare the country, but largely the investment was on infrastructure. Billions were spent on roads, building and stadium construction, mass transit improvements, environmental cleanup (though it was hard to tell from all the smog-filled city shots), and hiding all of the stray dogs in Beijing. Any way you look at it, that is an insane amount of money, but everyone seemed to walk away impressed with Beijing. All of this money spent on development and improvement and the positive light that was cast on China really made me think – does it really have to be impossible for Detroit to someday be awarded the Olympics? I don’t think so. And don’t scoff.

The IOC (International Olympic Committee) is the organization responsible for selecting the host city for each Olympics event. The key to convincing the IOC that Detroit is a worthy location is to convince them that the Olympics serve a greater purpose than an exciting couple weeks of international competitive events. The Olympics, if treated correctly, are an opportunity to give a region the huge kick in the bum it needs to finally implement many of the oft-discussed but never acted upon changes. For literally generations, people have discussed the critical need for mass transit in the Detroit area. One of the criteria the IOC uses in selecting a host city is the quality and availability of mass transit. At this point, we clearly fail on this front, but the promise of the Olympics will almost certainly provide the final spark needed to bring real, tangible mass transit development. Beyond that, the Olympics brings road improvements, uncountable aesthetic enhancements (think about what happened in Detroit during the Super Bowl times 14), cleanup, jobs, construction, tourism, and, if everything goes smoothly, the chance for Detroit to finally prove “WE DON’T SUCK.”

So, my first argument to the IOC is that they can initiate considerable and invaluable change in the city that needs it more than any other large city in America, and the people of Detroit and Michigan will never relent in their appreciation to you. You can be not just A, but THE catalyst for change in a place that is begging for it. Your altruism would never, ever be forgotten.

My second argument is that in addition to the good the IOC could do for us, aside from some necessary improvements, Michigan could be an ideal location for the Olympics. In Detroit alone we have 2 almost brand new stadiums next door to each other, with Joe Louis and Cobo a mile down the road. On top of these core locations, The Big House in Ann Arbor seats >100K (bigger than The Bird’s Nest), a few miles down Washtenaw you have all the facilities of Eastern Michigan, and a few more miles in the other direction and you have the beautiful campus of MSU. If that is not enough, we’re surrounded by water that tourists and athletes alike can enjoy before, during, and after the games. Let’s also not forget about the three new beautiful casinos and attached hotels right near all these downtown sports venues.

Third, the Detroit Games would be more than the Detroit Games – they could be the first ever dual-national Olympics with Windsor only a baseball’s throw away. Inter-country cooperation seems like the kind of theme on which the IOC could really hang its hat.

Fourth, the most immediate likely year for the Detroit Olympics would be 2020, just about enough time for the American auto manufacturers to be the primary driving force in the virtual elimination of carbon dioxide emissions and the widespread use of renewable fuel sources. The Detroit Olympics would be a celebration of an environmentally healthy world, with the former culprit now standing center stage as the hero. What better way to reward this gut-wrenching effort and transition?

Fifth, the people of Michigan yearn for approval. Take a look at the Baseball All-Star Game and Super Bowl from a few years ago. Media reviews about the reception from the people and the city were overwhelmingly positive for both events. We know the way the world thinks about us, and when we have the opportunity to alter this viewpoint, we unify and present a friendly, cordial, and enthusiastic front. With the whole world watching, I can’t even imagine the effort that would be contributed by all Michigan residents. I have quite a bit more to say about this subject, but I think I will end my thoughts here for now. I don’t expect it, but I am quite interested to hear any feedback from whatever kind soul may have an opinion about this.

Detroit/Windsor 2020! I don’t see why this has to be an unattainable goal. If we want and expect big changes, we have to shoot really, really big.


Dan said...

But Ken, how do I help make this happen?

Alex said...

I am sorry to make a semi-political jab, which I never ever make, but I was constantly reminded of a quote by some woman working for the city of Detroit at the time Kwame was arrested for leaving the country to go to Windsor. This woman did not think it was such a big deal for the mayor to go to Windsor since it is so close, and to her "It's not like he left the country or anything."

And therefore, if you use this woman's logic, there is no reason why Detroit and Windsor should not be able to co-host the Olympics.

Dave said...

I am with Dan let's get it done. And if we need to spend a little money to destroy so older buildings why not, it will look better, won't it?